New Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

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Study found that childhood socioeconomic environment may be a cardiovascular disease risk factor in later life.

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease. Attributes like the level of educational attainment and occupational status have been identified as cardiovascular disease risk factors in adults. These associations are determined by measuring left ventricle (LV) mass using echocardiograms; a high LV mass and impaired diastolic functions highly correlate with heart failure, making this an excellent system for assessing cardiovascular disease susceptibility. No studies have been done to correlate childhood SES and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This study, published in JAMA Pediatrics found a correlation between childhood SES and the development of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

The Cardiovascular Risk Yong Finns study was conducted between the years of 1980 and 2011.  The study followed children from 3-18 years of age and collected information about life styles and cardiovascular risk factors.  The 1,871 individuals who participated in this study provided data on the SES of their families at the time of enrolment, and their cardiovascular health was assessed 31 years later, at the end of the study.

Annual family income was used as a measure of family SES.This information was obtained from parents at the beginning of the study by selecting their income bracket from 8 specified ranges. The researchers adjusted the 1980 incomes into present day values and then separated the participants into three income groups – low, medium, and high. To mitigate the effect of other cardiovascular disease risk factors, researchers collected information on the body mass index of the participants, as well as blood and serum levels at the beginning and at the end of the study. A further questionnaire was provided to assess smoking status and SES, and familial environment of the patient throughout life. To correlate these SES statistics with cardiovascular health, each participant was tested with an echocardiogram to measure LV size and diastolic function. Results of this study show an inverse relationship between childhood SES and diastolic performance. These results remained statistically significant even after researchers adjusted for other cardiovascular risk factors, including BMI, childhood obesity, and participant’s own SES in adulthood.

Previous studies have suggested that childhood SES has a lasting impact on the biological development of an individual through its effect on metabolic functions. This study is the first of its kind demonstrating that childhood SES affects the risk of cardiovascular disease in adult life. The results of this study further solidify the connection between early childhood development and adult health. An interesting finding investigated in this study was that there was no association between the emotional environment of early childhood development and LV and cardiovascular disease risk factors in adulthood. More studies would be needed to determine what aspects of socioeconomic differences make such an impact on cardiovascular disease development.

Written by Irina Sementchoukova, B.Sc

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