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Hot Publication - Thurston et al.

Abuse and Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease among Midlife Women:  
The Study of Women’s Health across the Nation
Thurston RC, Chang Y, Derby CA, Bromberger JT, Harlow SD, Janssen I, and Matthews KA
Stroke, DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.005928

Some evidence suggests that childhood abuse may be related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among women. However, this relation has largely been addressed using self-reported measures of CVD. Dr. Rebecca Thurston and her colleagues tested whether a history of abuse was related to subclinical CVD among midlife women without clinical CVD.

The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a longitudinal cohort study of women transitioning through the menopause. A total of 1,402 white, black, Hispanic, and Chinese SWAN participants completed measures of childhood and adult physical and sexual abuse, underwent a blood draw, completed physical measures, and underwent a carotid artery ultrasound at SWAN study visit 12. Associations between abuse and intima media thickness and plaque were tested in linear and multinomial logistic regression models controlling for age, site, race/ethnicity, financial strain, education, body mass index, lipids, blood pressure, measures of insulin resistance, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, and medication use.

Findings from this study indicate that a history of childhood sexual abuse was associated with higher intima media thickness controlling for standard CVD risk factors and other confounders (β=0.022; SE=0.010; P<0.05; adjusted mean childhood sexual abuse: 0.800 mm versus no childhood sexual abuse: 0.782 mm).

Dr. Thurston’s findings have been widely featured by the media in publications including Time Magazine and U.S. News & World Report and many others.  The results of her study indicate the importance of considering the potential impact of early-life stressors on women’s later cardiovascular health. 

Contributors:  
Rebecca C. Thurston PhD, Yuefang Chang PhD, Joyce T. Bromberger PhD, and Karen A. Matthews, PhD (University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychiatry)
Carol A. Derby, PhD (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Sioban D. Harlow, PhD (University of Michigan)
Imke Janssen, PhD (Rush University)

This article appeared in the journal Stroke.  Click here to read the abstract.