Title. Intimate partner violence and cardiovascular risk: is there a link?
Aim. This paper is a report of a study of the relationship between stress associated with intimate partner violence and smoking and cardiovascular risk.
Background. Stress related to intimate partner violence persists after a woman leaves an abusive relationship. Persistent stress is associated with cardiovascular disease, the leading single cause of death among women. Smoking, an established risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is a coping mechanism commonly used to decrease the anxiety and stress of intimate partner violence. However, cardiovascular health is poorly understood in abused women.
Method. Secondary analysis of data collected between 2004 and 2005 with a community sample of 309 women who had separated from an abusive partner 3 months to 3 years previously was conducted to create a descriptive profile of cardiovascular risk. Bivariate tests of association and logistic regression analysis were used to test relationships among variables.
Results. Of the women, 44·1% were smokers; 53·2% had body mass indices classified as overweight or obese; 54·7% had blood pressures above normal range; and 50·8% reported cardiovascular symptoms. Neither severity of intimate partner violence nor smoking behaviours were statistically significant in explaining the presence of cardiovascular symptoms.
Conclusion. The prevalence of hypertension, obesity and smoking suggests that survivors of intimate partner violence may be at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease and warrant clinical attention. Because cardiac symptoms develop as women get older, the mean age of 39 years in this sample may explain why intimate partner violence severity and smoking did not sufficiently explain the presence of cardiac symptoms.