Can your height be a factor in your risk for having a heart attack? According to a new study, yes it can.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the genes that influence your height can also determine your risk of developing coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack.
Heart attack due to coronary artery disease, which is caused by a build up of plaque in the arteries, is the number one cause of premature death in the world and is nearly twice as prevalent in men than women.
The study, led by Nilesh Samani from the University of Leichester, found that short people are at greater risk for having clogged arteries and was the first of its kind to show the link between health and height was due to genetic factors, and not external factors such as poor nutrition or poverty.
CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula says that the medical community has known for over 50 years that there was a correlation between height and health.
“But what we didn’t know is if your height is influencing your heart health or are there external factors like your nutrition as a child or socioeconomic status,” she said.
The findings were based on an examination of 180 genetic variants in approximately 200,000 people, both with and without coronary heart disease. Researchers found that for every 2.5 inches shorter a person was in height, their risk of coronary heart disease was decreased 13.5 percent.
The correlation was more defined in men, perhaps because more of them took part in the study. Findings on women were less conclusive.
According to the NY Daily News, this means that a five-foot tall person would have a 32 percent higher risk of developing clogged arteries and having a heart attack than a five-foot-six-inch tall person.
In addition to the genetic comparisons, researchers also measured 12 risk factors including blood pressure, weight, diabetes, and lipid panels, and determined that only LDL and triglycerides (the “bad” cholesterols) could be a major factor in heart disease risk, but did not find a full explanation as to why this seemed to affect shorter people more than taller ones.
Dr. Narula had some theories on the link.
“There’s a lot of other hypotheses of what might be going on. For instance, if you are shorter you have smaller caliber diameter coronary arteries that might be easier for those arteries to get blocked over time. What researchers propose is that there are shared biological pathways that produce bone and muscle growth through hormones and proteins might also be causing increased cell growth in the artery walls and inflammation. And then the third possible theory is that maybe tall people somehow live healthier lifestyles. They exercise more, they smoke less and that’s really what we’re seeing.”
However, being tall doesn’t necessarily mean you have an advantage in other health-related areas. Narula pointed out that in general, short people live longer, and past studies have shown that taller people may have a higher risk of developing cancer.
So what does this mean for you? Narula says that the same lifestyle risk factors still apply for everyone, short or tall. Living a healthy lifestyle is still important, and this Inquisitr article explains several ways to lower your heart attack risk, no matter what your height.
[Image via The Truth Inside of You]