Being short 'raises heart risk'

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

image captionWomen shorter than 5ft appear to be at risk, say the researchers

Short people are more likely to develop heart disease, researchers say.

Being under 5ft 4in or 165.4cm if you are a man and below 5ft or 153cm if you are a woman poses a risk, they say.

After analysing data on over 3m people, they found shorter adults were 1.5 times more likely to develop and die from heart disease than tall adults.

Shorter people may have smaller blood vessels to the heart that clog more easily, the Finnish team suggested in the European Heart Journal.

Or factors that can stunt growth, like poor nutrition during childhood, could play a role, they add.

By reviewing 52 separate studies, the University of Tampere team found a strong link between stature and heart disease risk, although it is not clear precisely why.

Lead researcher Dr Tuula Paajanen said short people should not be worried by her findings.

"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, as well as lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and exercise. All of these together affect their heart disease risk.

"In addition, because the average height of populations is constantly increasing, this may have a beneficial effect on deaths and illness from cardiovascular disease."

Professor Jaakko Tuomilehto, a public health doctor at the University of Helsinki, said short adults might benefit from realising their increased risk.

"Most of us know approximately our own height ranking, and, if we are at the low end, we should take coronary risk factor control more seriously.

"On the other hand, tall people are not protected against coronary heart disease, and they also need to pay attention to the same risk factors as shorter people."

Fotini Rozakeas, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said more research into this "peculiar" link was needed.

"Whilst height is used to calculate Body Mass Index - a marker that might help indicate a risk of heart disease - there are lots of other risk factors to take into account like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and obesity.

"It doesn't matter if you are tall, short or somewhere in between, it's still so important to do regular exercise, eat a healthy and balanced diet, stop smoking and control your weight to protect your heart health."

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