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We are going to explore how height in men can influence the development of coronary artery disease.

Does a man’s height really have anything to do with heart health? A recent study conducted by the University of Leicester discovered that short men might have a greater risk of developing heart disease than taller men. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average man in the United States stands 5 feet 9 inches tall. According to Steve Burgess, PhD, for every 2 ½ inches shorter a man is, the higher the risk of heart disease becomes, spiking by nearly 14 percent.

Perhaps it's time to take another look at the diseases you are statistically more at risk of.

What Is Heart Disease?

Blood vessel and heart disease, also called coronary artery disease, includes many problems, a lot of which are related to the hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. This is a condition that happens when plaque develops in the arterial walls. The build-up results in narrowing of the arteries, which makes it difficult for blood to flow through. If blood clots form, it can halt blood flow and result in a stroke or heart attack.

What Is A Heart Attack?

A person will experience a heart attack when the flow of blood to the heart is compromised or blocked by a blood clot. The clot cuts off the blood flow to the heart completely or partially, and the portion of the heart muscle supplied by that artery starts to die. Heart attacked are very survivable, but having a heart attack should be a serious wake-up call that inspires a person to make lifestyle changes relating to medication, physical activity and dietary modifications.

What Is A Stroke?

Stokes occur when the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen become blocked, usually due to a blood clot. When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is blocked, cells start to die — just as with a heart attack. The result of blocked blood vessels mean the brain sustains damage and is unable to carry out some of the previous functions, such as talking or walking. There are different types of strokes, and some effects on a person may be permanent if too many brain cells die off due to lack of blood or oxygen. Dead cells can never regenerate, but injured cells can repair themselves.

Other Cardiovascular Diseases

Heart value issues: When a heart valve does not open enough to let blood flow through, it’s called stenosis. If the valve does not close the right way to allow blood to come through, it’s called regurgitation. A heart valve that bulges or prolapses back into the upper chamber is referred to as mitral valve prolapse.

Heart failure: This does not really mean that a heart will stop beating. A person with heart failure will sometimes have what is called congestive heart failure or CHF, which means the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should be. The heart will continue working, but it will not be able to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Heart failure can get worse if it is not treated.

Arrhythmia: This condition involves an abnormal heart rhythm. There are various types of arrhythmia's and the heart can beat irregularly, too slow or too fast. Bradycardia is a condition in which the heart rate is less than 60 bpm (beats per minute) and tachycardia is when the heart rate is more than 100 bpm (beats per minute).

Shorter Men At Risk Of Heart Disease: Study

There are many ways in which a physician can diagnose coronary artery disease based on a person’s medical and family history, risk factors, physical examination and the results of the following tests and/or procedures:

  • EKG: An EKG or electrocardiogram is a painless test that detects and records the electrical activity of a person’s heart. The test will show how fast the heart beats and if it has a regular or irregular rhythm. An EKG may show heart damage due to coronary artery disease, as well as any damage from a past or current heart attack.
  • Blood Testing: A doctor may order blood tests to check a man’s fats, cholesterol, and protein and sugar levels in the blood. Any abnormal levels could mean a person is at an increased risk for coronary artery disease.
  • Chest X-ray: A chest x-ray could reveal signs of heart failure, as well as other signs related to coronary artery disease.
  • Stress Testing: A stress test is done by having a person exercise to make the heart beat faster and work harder. If an individual can’t exercise, he or she may be given medications to increase the heart rate. The goal of a stress test is to detect abnormal changes in heart rate or blood pressure, shortness of breath and to see if there are changes in a person’s heart rhythm or electrical activity.

The Results Of The Study

So what did the recent research study, led by Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, of the British Heart Foundation Professor for Cardiology at Leicester University, say about height and heart health? The results were published online in the New England Journal of Medicine and the study was supported by the British Heart Foundation, The National Institute for Health Research and other organizations.

Dr Christopher Nelson, a British Heart Foundation-funded lecturer who analyzed the information, stated: "We had genetic data through the CARDIoGRAM-C4D consortium on 200,000 persons with or without coronary artery disease. We examined whether 180 genetic variants that affect height also associated with coronary artery disease. In aggregate, we found that for every change in height of 6.5 cm (approx. 2.5 inches) caused by these variants the risk of coronary artery disease changed by an average of 13.5 percent.”

Dr Nelson also added: “We also examined whether the association we found between shorter height and higher risk of coronary artery disease could be explained by an effect on height and risk factors for coronary artery disease like cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. We only observed an association with cholesterol and fat levels which could explain a small proportion (less than a third) of the relationship between shorter height and coronary artery disease. The rest is probably explained by shared biological processes that determine achieved height and the development of coronary artery disease at the same time.”

While the findings of the study are quite interesting, it does not prove any immediate clinical implications between height and coronary artery disease risks. More ongoing research is needed in order to understand the relationship between height, heart disease and the reported risk factors.

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