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Heart Disease Health Center

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Short People May Have Increased Heart Risk

Study Shows Greater Risk of Heart Attacks and Earlier Death for Short People

Second Opinion

The new review doesn't lay the question to rest, says Thomas Samaras, a San Diego researcher who has published on the topic and written a book about human body size and its effects as well as a book called The Truth About Your Height. "There are many neutral studies [about the effect of height on heart health] and many that disagree."

''I believe what they found is true," he says. "But I don't believe the results are true. I think they are confused by what we call confounding factors," he tells WebMD. "We know women are shorter than men and they have less heart disease."

Samaras contends it's not the short stature that is linked with higher heart disease rates and other problems, but something that could be associated with the short stature.

For instance, he says, a low-birth-weight baby is likely to grow up short, he says. "If a baby is low birth weight we tend to overfeed," he says. It could be the excess weight, not the short stature, driving the heart disease risk, he says.

In a study Samara published last year in Experimental Gerontology, he says, "I found that men were 9% taller than women and had a 9% lower life expectancy."

Samaras also points to centenarians and observes that many are short and lean.

In an editorial accompanying the review, Jaakko Tuomilehto of the University of Helsinki also questions whether the differences in risk are due to the height factor or something else. But regardless, he writes, short people may be wise to ''take coronary risk factor control more seriously."

Not that tall people are off the hook, he says, warning that they ''are not protected against coronary heart disease, and they also need to pay attention to the same risk factors as shorter people."

''Height is only one factor that may contribute to heart disease risk," Paajanen says. ''Whereas people have no control over their height or genetics, they can control their weight, lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and exercise -- and all of these together affect their heart disease risk."

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