Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S., and type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of heart disease - along with obesity, a lack of physical movement and poor nutrition. People of color are disproportionately affected by heart disease compared to their white counterparts, due to significant social and economic disparities in their communities. People experiencing poverty or suffering racism are at particular risk for chronic diseases that cause heart disease. Being located in what is known as a "food desert" exacerbates the problem, making it difficult to find or afford healthy food options. Limited resources make it difficult - if not impossible - to obtain and sustain a nutrient-rich diet.
The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease research shows us that a baby developing in an environment where healthy food options are not available, means that child is at greater risk of heart disease later in life. Lack of adequate nutrition before and during pregnancy, caused by not having enough to eat - or by not eating enough nutrient-rich foods - puts future generations at risk for chronic disease.
Toxic stress is another contributor to heart disease. Children born into an environment full of chronic stress have been shown to have a higher risk of heart disease later in life. Stress can develop and build on itself throughout the lifespan, starting from when a baby is developing in the womb. Even episodes of toxic stress can cause long-term problems for a mother and her baby.
Center for Disease Control. (2017, November 28). Heart Disease. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
Tain, Y., & Hsu, C. (2017). Interplay between Oxidative Stress and Nutrient Sensing Signaling in the Developmental Origins of Cardiovascular Disease. International Journal of Molecular Sciences,18(4), 841.
Wicklow, B. A., & Sellers, E. A. (2015). Maternal health issues and cardio-metabolic outcomes in the offspring: A focus on Indigenous populations. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology,29(1), 43-53.