Girls who have been sexually or physically abused may be more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes as adults.
The study conducted by Brigham University found that girls who experienced repeated episodes of forced sex in childhood or adolescence had a 62 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease as adults.
Severe physical abuse in childhood or adolescence was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events. Mild to moderate physical or sexual abuse was not associated with increased risk.
"The single biggest factor explaining the link between severe child abuse and adult cardio disease was the tendency of abused girls to have gained more weight throughout adolescence and into adulthood," said Janet Rich-Edwards, according to a Brigham statement.
Rich-Edwards, associate professor in medicine Brigham University and Women's Hospital in Boston, led the study.
The researchers studied the associations of child and adolescent abuse with confirmed heart attacks and strokes from 1989 to 2007 among 67,102 women in the Nurses' Health Study II.
Eleven percent reported forced sexual activity during childhood and adolescence and nine percent reported severe physical abuse.
"Women who experience abuse need to take special care of their physical and emotional well-being to reduce their risk of chronic disease," Rich-Edwards said.
These findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2011.