Short people at greater risk of heart disease

Short people are more likely to develop heart disease than tall people Height may be a new risk factor

Short people are at greater risk of developing heart disease than tall people, according to new research.

A review of 52 studies involving three million people found that short adults were 1.5 times more likely to develop heart disease and die from it than tall adults.

The study findings appeared to be true for both men and women.

Past studies which looked for an association between short height and heart disease had produced conflicting results. In this analysis, the team of researchers compared the shortest people with the tallest for heart disease risk.

On average short people were below 5ft 3in (160.5 cms) high and tall people were over 5ft 8in (173.9 cms.)

Considered separately, on average short men were below 5ft 5in (165.4 cms) and short women below 5 ft (153 cms), while tall men were over 5ft 10in (177.5 cms) and tall women over 5ft 6in (166.4 cms).

As a whole, people in the shortest group were nearly 1.5 times more likely to have, or die from heart compared with the tallest people.

Looking at men and women separately, short men were 37 per cent more likely to die from any cause compared with tall men.

Short women were 55 per cent more likely to die from any cause compared with tall women.

The results suggest that height alone may be a risk factor for heart disease, said Dr Tuula Panajanen who led the study.

However, before reaching for the tape measure, Dr Paajanen said that 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, lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and exercise and all of these together affect their heart disease risk.

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

Dr Paajaanen said the reasons why short people were more at risk from heart disease are unclear. However, she suggested that people who are short may have smaller coronary arteries which become blocked faster and may be more affected by changes in blood flow.

Fotini Rozakeas, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s the first time this association has been looked at using the combination of results from several different studies and, despite a number of theories, it is still unclear why short people should have an increased risk of heart disease.

“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.”

This article was published on Wed 9 June 2010

Image © Franck Boston -

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