Scientific studies suggest that taller people are at a lower risk of coronary heart disease, even after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors. Studies have found that on average a 1cm (0.4 inch) increase in height is associated with around a 2% decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.
One of the largest studies on the relationship between heart disease and height was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1995. That study involved 119,741 women from the Nurses Health Study (NHS) who were initially free of heart disease and ranged in height from 56 inches (1.42m) to 77 inches (1.96m).
The researchers found that shorter women were more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol levels, and be diagnosed with diabetes while taller women were more likely to consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes.
From 1976 to 1990, 3,638 cardiovascular events were observed including 1,304 heart attacks and 1,343 cases of angina.
After adjusting the results for known cardiovascular risk factors such as BMI, smoking, serum cholesterol levels, and hypertension, the researchers found that women who were 67 inches (1.70m) or taller were 27% less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and 23% less likely to suffer from a heart attack than women who were less than 62 inches (1.57m) in height.
Similar studies in men have yielded similar results. One such study, published in the journal Circulation in 1993, involved more than 22,000 men from the Physicians’ Health Study. It found that men who were 73 inches (185cm) or higher were 35% less likely to suffer a heart attack than men who were 67 inches (170cm) or shorter.
While the precise reasons why shorter people are more likely to develop heart disease are unknown there are several possible mechanisms. One is that taller people tend to have lower levels of fibrinogen in their blood. Fibrinogen is involved in the blood clotting process however high levels of fibrinogen has been associated with increased coronary heart disease risk.
Shorter individuals are also more likely to be overweight and develop diabetes which are two established risk factors for heart disease, however even after these are taken into account, tall people still tend to be less susceptible to heart disease suggesting other unknown mechanisms may be at play.
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