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Height linked with heart disease marker
What were the basic results?
The study found that:
- the tallest 25% of people had 30% lower odds of having coronary artery calcium than the shortest 25% of people (odds ratio [OR] 0.70, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.53 to 0.93)
- for each standard deviation increase in height, the odds of having coronary artery calcium fell by 14% (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.00)
How did the researchers interpret the results?
The researchers concluded that they found "a significant inverse relationship between adult height and prevalent coronary artery calcium. Individuals in the tallest quartile had 30% lower odds of prevalent coronary artery calcium compared to individuals in the shortest quartile.
"Whilst the prevalence of coronary artery calcium differs amongst men and women, the inverse association between height and coronary artery calcium was similar in both genders."
This study has found an association between an adult's height and the amount of coronary artery calcium they had. Coronary artery calcium is where the arteries become clogged as a result of a fatty build-up of cholesterol and other materials, such as calcium.
After adjusting for standard cardiovascular risk factors, the study found that taller people had reduced odds of having coronary artery calcium. The tallest 25% of men and women had 30% reduced odds of coronary artery calcium compared with the shortest 25%.
This study has a number of strengths and limitations that should be considered when interpreting the results.
The study included information on a large number of people, collected information on standard cardiovascular risk factors, and used a standardised approach to coronary artery calcium assessment.
However, there were a number of limitations, including:
- height was self-reported
- there may be other factors that were not adjusted for that could explain the link between height and coronary artery calcium - for example, although the researchers adjusted for waist circumference, they haven't assessed body mass index as another indicator of being overweight or obese
- information on childhood factors that could influence height was not available
- the study was performed in America and participants were mainly white - the association between height and coronary artery calcium may not be the same for all populations
The biggest limitation was that coronary artery calcium is a surrogate marker (possible indicator) of CHD and CHD events such as heart attack. Although previous studies have shown a link between coronary artery calcium and the risk of CHD events, this study didn't directly investigate whether taller people had a reduced risk of these events.
Further research is required to see whether tall people actually have different health outcomes. For now, while we can do nothing about our height, we can lower our risk of developing CHD by eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular exercise and not smoking.
"Tall people are less likely to have a heart attack because their arteries aren't so clogged," reports the Mail Online. But the Mail's claim that "taller people have a towering advantage when it comes to heart disease" isn't necessarily true...
Links to Headlines
Tall people are less likely to have a heart attack because their arteries aren't so clogged. Mail Online, December 13 2013
Links to Science
Miedema MD, et al. Adult Height and Prevalence of Coronary Artery Calcium: The NHLBI Family Heart Study. Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging. Published online December 11 2013
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