Domestic abuse increases heart attack, stroke risk, study finds

American Heart Association researchers found exposure to domestic violence was associated with at least a 34 percent higher risk for cardiovascular events and 30 percent increased risk of death.

The study analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which started in 1985, according to an Oct. 31 news release from the AHA. Researchers examined questionnaires completed in 1987 and 1988 for more than 4,300 people. Researchers then analyzed follow-up survey responses to identify heart attacks, strokes, heart failure hospitalizations and deaths related to other cardiovascular causes among participants.

The analysis found:

  1. Exposure to intimate partner violence or family violence increased risk of cardiovascular events by at least 34 percent and increased death by at least 30 percent when adjusted for age, sex and race.

  2. More than one violent episode increased risk of death by 34 percent for any cause after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors.

  3. A violent episode involving a family member other than the spouse resulted in an increased risk of death by 59 percent.

  4. People who reported at least one exposure to domestic violence consumed more alcohol, smoked more and were more likely to report depression than those who did not have exposure.

"The results suggest that intimate partner violence appears to be very much related to a higher risk of cardiovascular events or death," lead study author Kathryn Recto said in the release. "It is imperative that we better understand the association between these two public health problems so that improved interventions can be developed and implemented. It is our hope that our study reinforces the need for routine screening by clinicians that assesses intimate partner violence, particularly because people with a history of intimate partner violence may need to be monitored more closely for increased risk of cardiovascular events in the future."

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