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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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