How Your Childhood Could Affect Your Heart Health

Heart health factors like good blood pressure and not smoking were more common in adults who had healthy childhoods

(RxWiki News) You may have more to thank your parents for than just your height and eye color. The way they raised you might affect your heart health as an adult.

Being raised in an emotionally stable home where parents taught children to control their emotions could contribute to heart health later in life, a new study found.

“The choices parents make have a long-lasting effect on their children’s future health, and improvement in any one thing can have measurable benefits,” said lead author Laura Pulkki-Råback, PhD, of the University of Helsinki in Finland, in a press release.

In their nearly 30-year study of over 1,000 Finnish children, Dr. Pulkki-Råback and colleagues found that children raised with healthy habits had healthier hearts as adults. For instance, those whose childhoods included physical activity and being taught to interact well with others were less likely to smoke or have high cholesterol.

Sarah Samaan, MD, FACC, a board-certified cardiologist with the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, TX, told dailyRx News that parents who strive to teach their children healthy habits are setting their children up for a healthy adulthood.

“This study adds to our growing understanding of the powerful effects of early life on heart health and wellness," Dr. Samaan said. "Children with a stable home life and supportive parents are more likely to enjoy a variety of activities and to eat healthier home-cooked meals compared to kids who are left to fend for themselves. They are also less likely to succumb to peer pressure to smoke or use illicit drugs, both of which can derail health and set the stage for a lifetime of unhealthy habits.”

These researchers rated the children in the study on healthy habits, family financial security, being raised in a stable emotional environment, fitting in socially, and being taught to control aggressiveness and impulsiveness.

Dr. Pulkki-Råback and colleagues found that those with the most psychological and social advantages as children rated better on healthy heart factors as adults than those who had fewer advantages as children. Factors that can affect heart health include exercising, eating healthy foods, maintaining a normal weight, not smoking and controlling cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Those who had a healthy childhood were 14 percent more likely to be of normal weight than those whose childhoods were less healthy, Dr. Pulkki-Råback and team found. Those who had a healthy childhood were also 12 percent more likely to be nonsmokers and 11 percent more likely to have blood healthy sugar levels.

Being financially stable and having good aggression and impulse control in youth were the strongest predictors of ideal heart health in adulthood, this study found.

This study was published Jan. 12 in Circulation.

Funding for the study came from a number of sources, such as the Academy of Finland and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 8, 2015