Women abused during childhood were found in a new analysis to be at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes when they reach middle-age. According to the findings, published by the American Psychological Association, female child abuse victims are twice as likely to have higher blood pressure, larger waist circumference and high cholesterol levels in mid-life, compared to other women of the same age.
Strong link between physical abuse in childhood and later higher glucose levels
Women victims of child abuse are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes because they develop metabolic syndrome, found in the study.
When researchers for the investigation took into account other traditional risk factors that included age, ethnicity and menopause status, a higher risk of the two health problems among female victims of child abuse was still apparent.
The finding is the first to show the unique health risk factor that stems from physical abuse as a child.
“Our research shows us that childhood abuse can have long-lasting consequences, even decades later, on women’s health and is related to more health problems down the road,” said study co-author Aimee Midei, MS, from the University of Pittsburgh in a press release.
The study took place over a 7-year period and included 113 back women and the remained were Caucasian. The age of the women at the start of the study was between 42 and 52. All of the women completed a questionnaire targeting past physical, emotional and sexual abuse; 34% of the women had been victims of some sort of abuse.
In additional to traditional risk factors for metabolic syndrome the researchers assessed the women’s waist size, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and fasting glucose levels each year. Smoking, menopausal and socioeconomic status, physical activity levels and history of childhood depression were also taken into account.
The findings showed sexual and emotional abuse had no impact on risk for heart disease and diabetes from metabolic syndrome. However, physical abuse was strongly linked to large waist circumference and higher glucose level, both of which are strongly linked to type 2 diabetes.
The authors suggest that women who have been victims of childhood abuse might have difficulty coping with stress or engage in unhealthy eating behaviors. Midei said, “It appears that psychology plays a role in physical health even when we’re talking about traumatic incidents that happened when these women were children.”
"Childhood Physical Abuse Is Associated With Incident Metabolic Syndrome in Mid-Life Women”
Aimee J. Midei, MS, Karen A. Matthews, PhD, Yue-Fang Chang, PhD, and Joyce T. Bromberger, PhD
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