The Surprising Link Between Heart Disease and Height

Posted by Meghan Orner on February 29, 2016

The Surprising Link Between Heart Disease and Height

As heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, it’s no surprise that researchers are always looking for ways to determine one’s risk of developing this widespread health issue. Numerous studies focusing on both controllable and uncontrollable heart disease risk factors have been completed with unexpected results, but this particular study may be one of the most surprising studies out there!

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Does Height Matter?

Apparently it does as a recent study found in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed the surprising link between heart disease and height. After analyzing genetic data from approximately 200,000 men and women globally, the study found that across all heights, one’s risk of heart disease decreases by 13.5 percent for every extra 2.5 inches of height (even after considering other risk factors like high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes). To put that statistic into perspective, someone five feet tall is 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease than someone who is 5 feet 6 inches tall.

These surprising results date back to 1951 when cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White first suggested that there could be a link between heart disease and height after noticing that 97 men who had a heart attack under the age of 40 were an average of two inches shorter than 146 healthy men.

As surprising as this study’s results may be, it’s important to remember that both lifestyle and environmental factors play a much bigger role in determining one’s heart disease risk than height. In fact, smoking increases one’s heart disease risk by 200 to 300 percent!

Keep Standing Tall

Now obviously, your height is completely out of your control – it’s up to genetics and heredity to determine just how short or tall we’ll be. But height isn’t the only uncontrollable heart disease risk factor. According to WebMd, other uncontrollable risk factors include gender, (men are more likely to develop heart disease than women until women experience menopause when their risk becomes greater), age (your risk increases with age), family history and ethnicity (African-Americans, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans are at a greater risk than Caucasians).

So if you can’t control your height or any other of these uncontrollable risk factors, what can you do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease? Well, lots of things!

As mentioned above, smoking is one of the worst things you can do to boost your heart disease risk, but some other beneficial steps include checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, exercising regularly, keeping your diabetes in check and finding ways to de-stress daily.

It may also be helpful to know your heart age. Researchers recently developed a Heart Age Calculator, which calculates one’s short and long-term risks of experiencing a heart attack. This is a great starting point in realizing what lifestyle choices may be hindering you from living the healthiest life possible.

But above all, speak with your doctor about your concerns. They will be able to help you determine your risk and what preventative steps will work best for you!


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