Women who were repeatedly sexually abused during their childhood have a 62% higher risk of heart attacks and stroke later in life as compared to women who were not abused, according to researchers at Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago. While women who were physically abused during childhood had 45% higher risk of heart disease.
The increased risk can be attributed to coping strategies among abuse survivors like overeating, alcohol use and smoking. The research team analyzed data from a study of more than 67,000 nurses. 9% of these women had reported severe physical abuse and 11% reported being raped in their childhood or adolescence. Repeated episodes of forced sex in childhood or adolescence increased risk of heart disease later in life. Physical abuse also had similar effects.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida.