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Childhood adversity, stress can lead to heart disease and other long-term risks

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) — What if there was a study, a ten-question survey to help better understand trauma from your early life and how unhealthy it might be for you in the long run?

Trauma Matters Omaha wants you to know that there is such a screening to determine the scores for Adverse Childhood Experiences, ACE.

“The idea behind the ACE survey is to determine the level of challenges and trauma you experienced as a child and how it will affect your health throughout your life.”

Javier Castellote is the director of the Trauma Informed Initiatives for the nonprofit Project Harmony, one of the organizations behind the Omaha Trauma Matters Initiative.

“The survey basically just raises awareness so you know you can find help and support to build the resilience you need to thrive,” Castellot said.

ACEs fall into one of three categories: abuse, neglect, or domestic dysfunction.

“Violence, physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, emotional and physical neglect, and domestic dysfunction,” Castellot explained. “So, if someone in your family has a serious mental illness, or if there is substance abuse at home, or if your parents are divorced and separated, right, or if a member of your family has been jailed. These are all stressors that affect the development of children.”

The CDC reports that three out of four people have experienced one of the ACEs before age 18.

Centers for Disease Control (Centers for Disease Control)

“There is a strong link from childhood experiences to long-term health,” Castellot said. “One of those things is cardiovascular disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.”

Working with others, including trusted family members or professionals, can help overcome the negative effects of a trauma-filled youth. Conducting a simple ten-question survey is a start.

“If you score four or more ACEs, you are at significant risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” said Project Harmony Senior Director of Public Affairs Angela Robert. “Therefore, we want everyone to pay attention to their health during (American Heart Month), both physically and emotionally.”

Centers for Disease Control (Centers for Disease Control)

“Perhaps we look at a person who could have had a heart attack and everyone is like, ‘Well, he was so healthy, I don’t get it,’” Rober said. “And he may have led a very healthy lifestyle from what we see, but these are events that could have happened throughout his life that we don’t know about. It goes to show that we never want to get into a situation asking what is wrong with you, but more about what happened to you.”

Castellot believes that the Trauma Matters initiative to inform the public about trauma is critical to the health of society as a whole, young and old.

“Injuries are very common and we all experience stress, right? In this way, we can all connect with this feeling of difficulty, so understanding this and knowing that when you are struggling with yourself, help and support can be found, this is the first step, ”he said.

Trauma Matters Omaha is a collaborative project of individuals and organizations from six counties that offers education and awareness to help manage ACE and trauma.

As Javier said, to help “create a more hopeful approach” to life.

Omaha Trauma Matters provides training and resources through its website, including the Trauma Matters podcast. Additional resources are also available through the CDC.

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