10 June 2010
Short people have a 50% higher risk of having a heart problem or dying from one, when compared to tall people, a new study says, though weight, blood pressure and smoking habits remain more important factors.
Previous studies have suggested a link between height and heart problems like angina, heart attacks and angioplasties. This is the first major review of such studies, including research from around the world, confirming the relationship. Researchers in Finland looked at 52 previous papers with data on height and heart problems in more than 3 million men and women.
Experts did not consider patients’ heights objectively, but within the context of a particular country’s population. They found the shortest people in the population were one and a half times more likely to have heart problems or die from them than the tallest people. On average, short people were under 5 feet 3 inches and tall people were at least 5 feet 9 inches.
The study was paid for by the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research and others. It was published online in the European Heart Journal.
Height’s impact on heart disease was still less important than things like smoking, which increases the chance of a heart ailment by up to four times, he said.
Scientists aren’t sure why short people might be more susceptible to heart problems, but think there could be several explanations. Being short might be a result of being poor, meaning people of small stature could be undernourished and vulnerable to health problems in general.
Experts also suggested there could be a biological explanation, such as a hormone imbalance that hurts the heart. Scientists also suspect that because short people have smaller arteries, those could theoretically get clogged quicker with cholesterol and be more easily damaged by any changes in blood pressure.