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Height linked to heart risk

Wednesday June 9th, 2010

Short people face a 50 per cent increased risk of developing heart disease compared with tall people, according to an analysis today.

Tall women are especially likely to be healthy, according to the study which brings together research involving more than three million people.

Experts say there is no clear explanation for the findings.

One theory is that the size of the arteries of the body is linked to overall size. Another is that height may often reflect environmental factors, such as diet.

However height has always been a factor in the measurement of body mass index, which helps to assess whether someone's weight is correct for their height.

The findings from the University of Tampere, Finland, are published in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers studied 52 pieces of research, seeking to contrast the fate of the shortest people with the tallest.

On average short men were 5ft 4 in or less while tall men were 5ft 10in or more. When it came to women, "short" women were 5ft or less and "tall" women were more than 5ft 5in in height.

The study showed that the shortest women were 55 per cent more likely to die from any disease than the tallest women of the same age. For men the risk was increased by 37 per cent.

Researcher Dr Tuula Paajanen said: "Height is only one factor that may contribute to heart disease risk, and whereas people have no control over their height, they can control their weight, lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and exercise and all of these together affect their heart disease risk.

"In addition, because the average height of populations is constantly increasing, this may have beneficial effect of deaths and illness from cardiovascular disease."

The conclusion was echoed today by Fotini Rozakeas, of the British Heart Foundation, who said the reasons for the increased risk faced by short people were "unclear".

She said: "Whilst height is used to calculate Body Mass Index - a marker that might help indicate a risk of heart disease - there are lots of other risk factors to take into account like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and obesity.

"It doesn't matter if you are tall, short or somewhere in between, it's still so important to do regular exercise, eat a healthy and balanced diet, stop smoking and control your weight to protect your heart health."

Short stature is associated with coronary heart disease: a systematic review of the literature and a meta-analysis. Tuula A. Paajanen, Niku K.J. Oksala, Pekka Kuukasjarvi, and Pekka J. Karhunen. European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehq155

Tags: Europe | General Health | Heart Health | Menís Health | Womenís Health & Gynaecology

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