Study Suggests a Happy Childhood Is Good for the Heart

young woman making heart signThe 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.

References:

  1. Love your heart. (2012, February). Retrieved from http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Feb2012/Feature1
  2. 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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  • Lorna

    Lorna

    January 14th, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Don’t you see that being in a happy home is going to include so many of the things that we naturally need to maintain optimum heart health? In these homes there was probably always enough food, a lot of live ,and a focus on staying healthy. I think that when you have these things from a very young age then this is what is going to be instilled in you as important things so you will continue to do these things into adulthood.

  • lois

    lois

    January 14th, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    There are so many benefits to growing up in a home that is nurturing and loving, but there are also those of us who have no control over what we were raised around. But that doesn’t mean that I have to give up, that I am destined to be unhappy just because I was abused or not loved as a child. I have tried to work past all of that and find it kind of depressing that even though emotionally I have worked through many of my demons there are still those studies that suggest that I am doomed because of something that was beyond my control. I am an adult who takes care of her self, I watch what I eat and I exercise, stopped smoking many years ago and am generally a happy person now. I like to think that this counts far more than that which I have moved past.

  • Edie R.

    Edie R.

    January 15th, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    This would be so idealistic if only everyone got this lucky…

  • Tara

    Tara

    January 19th, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    I agree with you up to a certain point Edie R, but you also have to know that there are going to be things that are within our grasp and when those things are not, it is time to take the bull by the horns and make your life what it needs to be TODAY.
    You cannot change the past but you ARE in charge of the here and now and your future.
    Make the most of that!

  • thayer

    thayer

    January 26th, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    All of the things for improving heart health, you know, can be done whether you are raised in a happy home or not.

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