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Increased risk of coronary heart disease associated with shorter height

The shorter you are, the more your risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study led by Professor Sir Nilesh Samani (pictured), British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology and Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.

The research discovered that every 2.5 inches of change in your height affects your risk of coronary heart disease by 13.5%. For example, compared to a 5ft 6inch tall person, a 5 foot tall person on average has a 32% higher risk of coronary heart disease because of their relatively shorter stature.

The study, which was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, was supported by the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and others.

Professor Samani said: “For more than 60 years it has been known that there is an inverse relationship between height and risk of coronary heart disease.

“It is not clear whether this relationship is due to confounding factors such as poor socioeconomic environment, or nutrition, during childhood that on the one hand determine achieved height and on the other the risk of coronary heart disease, or whether it represents a primary relationship between shorter height and more coronary heart disease.

“Now, using a genetic approach, researchers at the University of Leicester undertaking the study on behalf of an international consortium of scientists (the CADIoGRAM+C4D consortium) have shown that the association between shorter height and higher risk of coronary heart disease is a primary relationship and is not due to confounding factors.”

Coronary heart disease is the common cause of premature death worldwide. It is the condition where the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries) become narrowed due to a deposition of fatty material (plaque) in the walls of the arteries. If a blood clot forms over the plaque then the artery can become completely blocked suddenly giving rise to a heart attack.

Professor Samani added: “While our findings do not have any immediate clinical implications, better and fuller understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie the relationship between shorter height and higher risk of coronary heart disease may open up new ways for its prevention and treatment.”

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