The negative effects of abuse, neglect, fear, and poverty on children are undisputed. It’s not always easy to shield children from the challenges of life, though, and parents’ own mental health issues and trauma can make caring for their children difficult. A Finnish study showing a connection between childhood well-being and adult heart health offers parents one more incentive to ensure their children grow up in stable and happy homes.
Better Childhood, Better Heart Health?
The study included roughly 1,100 Finnish adults ranging in age from 30 to 45. Each study participant was closely followed between the ages of 3 and 18. Researchers evaluated the presence of childhood “psychosocial advantages,” such as learning positive social skills from parents, growing up in a family with positive health habits, or living in relative financial security.
As adults, children with these psychosocial advantages were more likely to maintain habits associated with good cardiovascular health. These adults were 14% more likely to maintain a normal weight, 12% less likely to smoke, and 11% more likely to have healthy blood sugar levels. The study’s authors highlight the potential cost savings of a healthy childhood, emphasizing that investing in healthy families can improve the health of family members for a lifetime.
Improving Heart Health
You can’t change your childhood, regardless of whether it exposed you to additional cardiovascular risk factors. The good news is that no matter what your childhood was like, there are many steps you can take to reduce your heart health risks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following heart-healthy strategies:
- Establish a relationship with a physician and seek regular medical care. Controlling chronic conditions such as diabetes can help you reduce your risk of serious cardiovascular health complications.
- Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit now.
- Work to maintain a healthy body weight for your height, age, and sex. Avoid crash diets and starvation approaches to weight loss.
- Eat heart-healthy foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Aim for at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as walking, swimming, or running, each week.
- Seek immediate help for symptoms of heart problems or a heart attack, including pressure in your chest, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or unexplained pain in your jaw, neck, shoulder, or back.
- Love your heart. (2012, February). Retrieved from http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Feb2012/Feature1
- Preidt, R. (2015, January 12). Happy childhood may be good for your heart. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/01/12/happy-childhood-may-be-good-for-your-heart
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