Previous studies suggest that chronic stress may induce immune system malfunction and a broad range of adverse health outcomes; however, the underlying pathways for this relationship are unclear. Our study aimed to elucidate this question by examining the relationship between parental cardiovascular risk factors including systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), body mass index (BMI), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and maternal psychological stress score (MPSS) relative to the severity of the child's food allergy (FA) and number of affected children. SBP, DBP, BMI, and WHR were measured and calculated at the time of recruitment by trained nurses. MPSS was obtained based on self-report questionnaires covering lifestyle adjustments, perceived chronic stress, and quality of life. General linear models examined whether caregiver chronic stress was associated with FA. For mothers with children under age 5 years, SBP, DBP and number of affected children had strong and graded relationships with severity of the child's FA. MPSS was also significantly and positively associated with child FA severity (P<0.001). However, no relationships were found between FA severity, BMI, or WHR for either parent. This was also the case for paternal SBP, DBP, and number of affected children of any age. There is a strong and graded link between cardiovascular risk and perceived stress in mothers of food-allergic children under age 5. Findings may have important implications for family-centered care of FA, may generalize to caregivers of children with chronic conditions, and extend the literature on allostatic load.
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