Thursday, April 9, 2015

Shorter individuals at greater risk of heart disease

The shorter a person is, the greater their risk of developing coronary heart disease, according to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a study of more than 200,000 people with or without heart disease, researchers from the University of Leicester found that for every 2.5 inch decrease in a person’s height, the risk of coronary heart disease increased by 13.5%. That translates as a 32% increase in risk for someone who is 5 ft tall, compared with someone who is 5 ft 6 inch.

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Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of premature death across the globe and in Britain accounts for around 73,000 deaths each year. The condition arises as a result of fatty materials depositing in the walls of coronary arteries and forming a plaque. If a blood clot forms across the plaque, the artery may become completely obstructed and suddenly cause a heart attack.

Nilesh Samani, lead author of the study and Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester, says that the inverse relationship between height and coronary heart disease risk has been familiar to scientists for over 60 years. However, until now, it has not been clear whether the relationship is influenced by confounding factors such as poor nutrition or poor socioeconomic environment.

“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,” says Samani.

The team looked at whether 180 genetic variants that influence height were also associated with the development of coronary heart disease. “The beauty about DNA is that it cannot be modified by one’s lifestyle or socio-economic conditions. Therefore if shorter height is directly connected with increased risk of coronary heart disease one would expect that these variants would also be associated with coronary heart disease and this is precisely what we found,” explains Samani.

Samani concludes that although the findings do not have any immediate clinical implications, an improved understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie the relationship between height and coronary heart disease may lead to new approaches in the prevention and treatment of this disease.


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