Linking systemic arterial stiffness among adolescents to adverse childhood experiences Academic Article uri icon

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  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been linked with cardiovascular disease and early mortality among adults. Most research examines this relationship retrospectively. Examining the association between ACEs and children's cardiovascular health is required to understand the time course of this association. We examined the relationship between ACEs exposure and ECG-to-toe pulse wave velocity (PWV), a measure of systemic arterial stiffness that is strongly related to cardiovascular mortality among adults. PWV (distance/transit time; m/s) was calculated using transit times from the ECG R-wave to the pulse wave contour at the toe. Transit times were collected over 15 heartbeats and the distance from the sternal notch to the left middle toe was used. A total of 221 children (119 females) aged 10-14 years participated in data collection of PWV, hemodynamic and anthropometric variables. Parents of these children completed a modified inventory of ACEs taken from the Childhood Trust Events Survey. Multivariable regression assessed the relationship between ACEs group (<4 ACEs versus ≥4 ACEs) and PWV. Analyses yielded an ACEs group by sex interaction, with males who experienced four or more ACEs having higher PWV (p<0.01). This association was independent of hemodynamic, anthropometric and sociodemographic variables (R(2)=0.346; p<0.01). Four or more ACEs is associated with greater arterial stiffness in male children aged 10-14 years. Addressing stress and trauma exposure in childhood is an important target for public health interventions to reduce early cardiovascular risk.


  • Klassen, Stephen A
  • Chirico, Daniele
  • O’Leary, Deborah D
  • Cairney, John
  • Wade, Terrance J

publication date

  • June 2016