Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer risk higher in short people: Study

Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer riskDid you know that your height – or lack thereof – is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer? Well, research has shown that the shorter you are, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD), and subsequent heart attacks.

In the study, researchers found that taller individuals have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes but, on the other han,d they have a greater risk for cancer. Professor Matthias Schulze said, “Epidemiological data show that per 6.5 cm in height the risk of cardiovascular mortality decreases by six percent, but cancer mortality, by contrast, increases by four percent.”


Alternative studies have uncovered similar results between height and the risk of illness.

Shorter height is directly linked to increased coronary heart disease risk: Previous study

Research reveals that every 2.5 inch-change in your height can increase your risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack by nearly 14 percent. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted by the University of Leicester and supported by the British Heart Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research, and others.

For instance, compared to someone who is five foot, six inches tall, a five-foot-tall person has a 30 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack on average.

Heart disease and heart attacks by the numbers

The most common cause of premature death around the word, coronary heart disease – and heart attacks – are the single biggest killer in countries like the United States and the U.K. About one in six men and roughly one in ten women die from coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

The condition is directly responsible for an estimated 73,000 deaths in the U.K. each year and an average of 200 people each day. That’s one person every seven minutes. Meanwhile, 2.3 million people continue to live with coronary heart disease. That’s well over 1.4 million men and 850,000 women.

Basically, coronary heart disease and heart attacks are conditions in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle – called coronary arteries – become narrowed because of a deposition of fatty material or plaque in the walls of the arteries. Now if a blood clot is created over the plaque, then the artery can get blocked all of a sudden, increasing the likelihood of heart disease and a heart attack.

Short height is a factor in heart disease and heart attacks

For more than a half a century, scientists have known that there’s an inverse relationship between height and the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack. But it hasn’t been clear whether this relationship is due to factors like nutrition and poor socioeconomic environment, especially during childhood, adolescence, and even young adulthood.

Study authors say your body’s DNA, which determines your height, can’t be modified by lifestyle or socioeconomic conditions. So shorter height itself, as the study determined, is directly connected with increased risk of coronary heart disease.

Biological processes that determine height and coronary heart disease development could be part of the explanation. People of smaller height have proportionally smaller coronary arteries, so a similar level of plaque could result in higher risk of the disease.

Tips to manage heart disease and type 2 diabetes

While the research highlights the complexity of coronary heart disease, it doesn’t have any immediate clinical implications, of course. Still, better understanding of the relationship between shorter height and the higher risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks means researchers may come up with new ways of preventing and treating these heart conditions in the future.


In the meantime, researchers suggest that heart disease be treated early, regularly, and more aggressively, especially in women. For starters, try switching to a much healthier lifestyle. This includes eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, refraining from smoking, and even limiting your alcohol consumption.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by many lifestyle factors, so managing these can better help you address and treat type 2 diabetes. Tips to manage type 2 diabetes include:

  • Eating healthy – incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, avoid processed and sugary foods, eat more whole grains
  • Exercise regularly
  • Follow your medications as prescribed
  • Monitor your blood sugar
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Control your weight and lose weight if overweight

This tips can help you better manages your type 2 diabetes.



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