Shorter Stature Linked with Elevated Risk for Heart Disease

Shorter stature, which was associated with poorer lung function, was linked with an increased risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), results of a new Mendelian analysis suggest.

The researchers, publishing in Communications Biology, sought to test whether height is causally related to cardiometabolic disease (CAD and type 2 diabetes). They undertook Mendelian randomization analyses of individual data form the UK Biobank cohort. Specifically, they analyzed 828 of previously established height-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), as well as the extent to which traditional risk factors (such as obesity, glycemic, lipid, and blood pressure), lung function and socioeconomic status mitigate the effects.

The study results suggested that “the effect of height on CAD is not mediated via socio-economic status variables,” according to the authors. They further reported that their results provided “strong evidence for a protective causal effect” of height on the risk for CAD that was consistent with previous research. One standard deviation higher height (about 6.5 cm) was associated with a 16% reduction in risk for CAD (OR=0.84; 95% CI, 0.80-0.87). They found no evidence that traditional risk factors and socio-economic status mitigated the effect.

The researchers said that there this study does much to shed light on the relationship between shorter stature and heart disease risk.

“Understanding the causal relationship behind an observation such as the inverse relationship between adult height and heart disease risk is important in advancing our knowledge about the disease and has the potential to point towards lifestyle interventions that can impact disease prevention,” lead author Eirini Marouli, PhD, from Queen Mary University of London, said in a press release. “Our results suggest that we need to assess lung function alongside someone’s height to have a better handle in predicting their risk in developing heart disease.”

In their discussion, the authors explored some of the potential explanations for the inverse relationship between shorter stature and CAD risk, noting physiological reasons such as higher overall blood pressure, and increased rate, although they conceded that these only impacted the relationship marginally.