Doctor warns of harmful effects of 'toxic stress' on kids

Amy Band, top, shows children items on a lightbox at the Verner Center in Asheville, N.C., on March 23, 2017. Safe spaces, quiet times and breathing exercises for the preschoolers are designed to help kids cope with intense stress so they can learn. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - New medical research this morning shows kids who grow up under constant stress--whether it's from abuse at home, bullying, neglect, or poverty--could be more susceptible to serious disease when they're adults.

A children's doctor in Michigan calls it "toxic stress" and says: "the damage that happens to kids from the infectious disease of toxic stress is as severe as the damage from meningitis or polio or pertussis."

Doctors say kids under toxic stress have frequently elevated heart rates and cortisol levels, putting them in a near constant "fight or flight" mode.

Research suggests it changes the body's metabolism and increases the risk for heart attacks and diabetes.

Scientists recommend parents have their kids regularly screened for toxic stress to catch any potential damage early, and reverse it.

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