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Short people have more heart disease

June 9, 2010 |  8:22 am

Short It's bad enough that short people can't reach the top shelves and always have to have their pants hemmed. Now, according to a new study, it turns out short people are more likely to develop heart disease.

French researchers analyzed 52 studies with a total of more than 3 million participants to see if there was a link between developing heart disease and height. They found that short adults were 1.5 times more likely to develop heart disease and die from it than were tall people. The link was true for both men and women and for all ethnic groups. Short was defined as under 5 feet 4 for men and under 5 feet for women. Tall men were defined as over 5 feet 8 and tall women over 5 feet 4.

Moreover, short men were 37% more likely to die from any cause compared with tall men, and short women were 55% more likely to die from any cause compared to taller women.

There is no explanation for why heart disease would affect short people more. But, according to the researchers, it could be that they have smaller coronary arteries which may become blocked earlier in life. It's also possible that short stature is a marker for a lower socioeconomic status, including poor nutrition and growth early in life.

"...height may be considered as a possible independent factor to be used in calculating people's risks of heart disease," the authors wrote.

But fear not, short people, said the lead author of the paper, Dr. Tuula Paajanen of the University of Tampere in Tampere, Finland, in a news release. "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."

The study was released Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Yao Ming of Houston, the NBA's tallest player at 7 feet 6, towers over the shortest, 5-5 Earl Boykins of Denver in this 2003 photo. We assume neither has heart disease. Credit: Gary C. Caskey / Reuters.

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Comments (3)

I doubt that shortness causes heart problems, but I suspect that both are the result of things like genetics or poor nutrition. We can't do much about genes, but we can work for better early childhood nutrition, and getting unhealthful foods out of school lunch programs.

Jim Purdy

Don't 100% of people tall or short, male or female, die from any cause?

"Moreover, short men were 37% more likely to die from any cause compared with tall men, and short women were 55% more likely to die from any cause compared to taller women."

Being Someone who is under 5 feet, I can probably say why short people have heart issues. It is probably not because short people are malnourished, but the opposite in fact. We have to watch what, and how much we eat so much more than a person of normal height. If a person who is 5'0 eats the same amount as a person who is 5'4, guaranteed, the shorter person will gain more weight, and be more unhealthy because they are shorter. This is something I deal with daily. If I go to a restaurant and order a meal, I can only fit, barely a quarter of the meal in my stomach, but I will most likely eat more than that. Wasn't it also found at some point that shorter people actually live longer than taller people, because their hearts don't have to work as hard to pump blood through their bodies? Shorter people just have to make sure they realize that they are in fact short, and cannot indulge in the same amounts of food as a person of normal height. 5 lbs for us, is like 10-15 lbs for a 'normal' person.


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