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Sex abuse linked to disease of arteries

By John von Radowitz

Sexual abuse as a child increases a woman's risk of developing early signs of artery disease, a study has found.

Scientists linked a history of sexual abuse with inner lining thickening of the carotid artery carrying blood to the brain.

The condition might indicate early atherosclerosis, or narrowing and hardening of the arteries, which increases the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.

Of the 1,400 American women aged 42 to 52 studied, 16% reported being sexually abused during childhood. The proportion was as high as 20% among African-Americans.

Only sexual abuse, not physical abuse, was linked to higher artery thickness. Researchers believe stress could be the explanation.

All the women were participants in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation based in seven US cities.

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