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Illness: where does it begin?
About the author: 

A new year is about beginnings, a perspective that medical researchers have been exploring of late

A new year is about beginnings, a perspective that medical researchers have been exploring of late. We may have been taught to believe that it is our actions as adults that determine our health, but recent research suggests it's far more complicated than that. The seeds of wellness and disease are also sown during our infancy and childhood, they believe.

Artherosclerosis (a disease that causes arteries to thicken and harden), which is often associated with ageing, can begin in childhood and may develop undetected for decades. Researchers from Finland have found that your chances of developing the disease is related to your exposure to some of the risk factors, such as smoking and being overweight, as an adolescent.

They were able to track the health records of 2,229 white adults, now aged between 24 and 39 years, who had been monitored from the age of 3. They discovered that the critical years fall between the ages of 12 and 18, when exposure to health risks can be as significant as those the group faces today. Yet, the same risk factors do not seem to have the same correlative effects if the child is aged between 3 and 9 years when exposed to them.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 290: 2277-83).


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