"The difference of 10 points in the systolic pressure by early adulthood puts these young people at higher risk for hypertension and coronary artery disease by middle or old age," said Shaoyong Su, genetic epidemiologist at Georgia Medical College.
Systolic pressure refers to the top number denoting pressure while the heart is contracting.
As an example, comparing two white males in the study with the same body mass index, the one who reported no adverse childhood events, or ACEs, had a systolic pressure of 117.
His peer with four or more ACEs had a top measure of 127.
"That is a big difference. You can predict that five years later, these young people may be hypertensive," said Su, corresponding author of the study.
He noted that an exponential increase in pressure correlated with an increasing number of bad events.
ACEs include emotional, physical and sexual abuse, emotional and physical neglect and household dysfunction, such as substance abuse or domestic violence.
"We hope these studies will reinforce the need to screen children and young adults for adverse childhood events so this increased risk can be identified early to enhance resiliency and recovery and lessen the burden of cardiovascular disease later in life," said Su.
Su noted that percentages of children experiencing ACEs are similar whether looking across Georgia, the nation, or the world.
The study was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.