Being a victim of violence may increase a woman's risk of blood vessel disease and possibly stroke, a new study suggests.
"Both society and the health care sector need to be aware of the importance of exposure to violence, its impact and the risk of stroke, not only on social well-being, but also on women's long-term health," said study author Dr Mario Flores. He is a research assistant at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico City.
The study included 634 healthy women, average age 49, in Mexico who were asked if they had seen or experienced different types of violence or neglect as children or adults. They also underwent medical imaging tests to measure the thickness of the main blood vessels in the neck that carry blood to the brain.
Those who had suffered physical violence as adults were 1.5 times more likely to have narrowing of the neck blood vessels than those who had not been victims of violence, the study found. This narrowing increases the risk of stroke.
The study, to be presented at an American Heart Association meeting in Phoenix, only found an association between violence and blood vessel disease or stroke risk, not a direct cause-and-effect.
"Although our findings support the theory that exposure to certain types of violence may have an impact on women's health, further analysis and studies must be performed in order to generate solid data to be able to change clinical practice and guide public health interventions," Flores said in a heart association news release.
Previous research has found that experiencing violence can cause depression, substance abuse and other health problems in women, the researchers said.
In general, research presented at meetings is viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.