Caregiver warmth in childhood associated with heart health later in life

Image of a woman holding a child and both are smiling

New research suggests that receiving consistent warmth from a caregiver during childhood may protect your heart later in life.

Mounting evidence implies that the risk of having cardiovascular disease can be influenced as early as childhood. To further test this, researchers aimed to quantify the association between childhood family environment and risk of heart disease later in life, using a standardized score of cardiovascular health which includes metrics such as diet, blood pressure, and physical activity. 

Analyzing data from over 2,000 participants from the NHLBI-funded Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, the researchers assessed participants at year 0, 7, and 20. Family environment, including childhood experiences of abuse, caregiver warmth, and other family or household challenges, was assessed at year 15 retrospectively. Across all 20 years of follow-up, the researchers found that each additional unit score of overall family environment adversity, and child abuse specifically, was associated with a 3.6 and 12.8 percent lower odds of CVH respectively, while each additional unit score of caregiver warmth was associated with 11.7 percent higher odds of cardiovascular health.

The NHLBI-funded study appeared in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.