16th June, 2010
A systematic review of and analysis of victims of heart attack has shown that short people are more at risk of the ailment than those who are tall in height, a study just published in the European Heart Journal has shown.
The analysis, carried out by some Finnish researchers, investigated evidence shown from 52 studies of over a million people and discovered that short adults were approximately 1.5 times more likely to develop cardiovascular heart disease and die from it than were tall people.
Due to the many different ways that previous studies have investigated the association between height and heart disease, Dr Paajanen of the Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Tampere , Finnland, and her colleagues decided to compare the shortest group to the tallest group instead of using a fixed height limit.
From the total of 1,900 papers, the researchers selected 52 that fulfilled all their criteria for inclusion in their study.
According to the report, the papers included a total of 3,012,747 patients. On average short people were below 160.5 cms high and tall people were over 173.9 cms. When men and women were considered separately, on average short men were below 165.4 cms and short women below 153 cms, while tall men were over 177.5 cms and tall women over 166.4 cms.
Dr Paajanen and her colleagues found that compared to those in the tallest group, the people in the shortest group were nearly 1.5 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) or coronary heart disease (CHD), or to live with the symptoms of the diseases, or to suffer a heart attack, compared with the tallest people.
â€œLooking at men and women separately, 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 with their taller counterparts,â€ the report said.
Explaining the clinical implications of the report, Dr Paajanen said: â€œThe results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that height may be considered as a possible independent factor to be used in calculating peopleâ€™s risk of heart disease.
â€œHeight is used to calculate body mass index, which is widely used to quantify risk of coronary heart disease.â€
She agreed that it is not yet known why short stature should be associated with increased risk of heart disease, but added that based on hypothesis, shorter people have smaller coronary arteries and that these smaller coronary arteries may be endangered earlier in life due to factors that increase risk.
He listed the risks as poorer socioeconomic background with poor nutrition and infections that result in poor foetal or early life growth.
The report also explains that smaller coronary arteries might be more affected by changes and disturbances in blood flow.
Recent findings on the genetic background of body height also suggest that inherited factors, rather than speculative early-life poor nutrition or birth weight, may explain the association between small stature and an increased risk of heart disease in later life.
Dr Paajanen, however, allayed the fears of short people saying that â€œheight 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.â€