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BLOOMINGTON — Children with favorable psycho-social experiences may have better cardiovascular health in adulthood, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Positive psycho-social factors include growing up in a family that practices healthy habits, is financially secure, is a stable emotional environment and where children learn to control aggressiveness and impulsiveness and fit in socially.

In a Finnish study, participants with the most psycho-social advantages in youth scored higher on a cardiovascular health index in adulthood than those with the least psycho-social advantages.

Cardiovascular health index was calculated by looking at activity level, cholesterol and blood pressure control, healthy eating and weight, blood sugar control and stopping cessation.

Results from the study revealed that those with the most psycho-social advantages in childhood had a 14 percent greater change of being a normal-weight adult, 12 percent greater chance of being a non-smoker as an adult and 11 percent greater chance of having a healthy glucose level as an adult.

"The choices parents make have a long-lasting effect on their children's future health and improvements in any one thing can have measurable benefits," said Laura Pulkki-Raback, study author and research fellow at the University of Helsinki.

Researchers initiated the project with 3,577 children and teens ranging from age 3 through 18 and measured socioeconomic status, emotional stability, parental health behaviors, stressful events, self-regulation of behavioral problems and social adjustment.

Twenty-seven years later, researchers assessed 1,089 of the original participants to determine cardiovascular health.

Favorable socioeconomic status and self-regulatory behavior — meaning good aggression and impulse control — in youth were stronger predictors of ideal cardiovascular health in adulthood.

"Scientific evidence supports the fact that investing in the well-being of children and families will be cost effective in the long run because it decreases health care costs at the other end of life," Pulkki-Raback said.

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