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Everyone has a story to tell and if we’re lucky, the opening pages of our story might begin with something like “Once upon a child, there was this little prince - or princess as the case may be - who had this amazing childhood.” Even the very word “childhood” evokes images of carefree, innocent days spent swimming, chasing frogs from the pond, bicycle safaris with friends, snow cone dripping off chins, princess tea parties, searching for shapes in the clouds, and more adventures than there is imagination – or time – to speak to. At least, this is the way that childhood is supposed to be.
The reality is that for some, childhood is not such a pleasant adventure – or memory. Instead of being a storybook fairy land and a time for happy-ever-after, childhood can be quite the opposite for some children. Instead of a magic wonderland, some may find childhood is a stressful time fraught with adversity which can come in many different forms: illness, poverty, death of loved ones, mistreatment, mental or physical abuse, poor parental monitoring or guidance, and neglect. Whether transparent, or a little less obvious, such adversity leaves a psychological mark which many carry into adulthood. Researchers now believe that some psychosocial stressors and adverse events - such as mental and physical abuse, mistreatment, and lack of demonstrations of love, for example - may also leave a physical mark rending those with more difficult childhoods at a greater risk of heart disease as adults.
Led by Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, researchers found that childhood mental health and psychosocial environmental factors appear to play a role in the development of heart disease in adulthood. Specifically, patients who suffered some type of mistreatment or mental adversity during childhood were found to have higher risk of heart disease than those with a more normal childhood.