A new study has found that our height might play a role in our health. The study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, has found that height can be an independent predictor of your risk for venous thromboembolism, or VTE, with blood clot risk lowest among the shortest women and men and increasing with height. (Researchers also found a strong association between blood clot risk and height among siblings.)

Lead study author Dr. Bengt Zöller, associate professor at Lund University and Malmö University Hospital in Sweden said:
“Height is not something we can do anything about. However, the height in the population has increased, and continues increasing, which could be contributing to the fact that the incidence of thrombosis has increased. I think we should start to include height in risk assessment just as overweight, although formal studies are needed to determine exactly how height interacts with inherited blood disorders and other conditions.”1

Every year, about 60,000 to 100,000 people in the US and about 500,000 people across Europe, die due to blood clots.
“The new blood clot study involved data on more than 1.6 million Swedish men who enlisted in the military and were born between 1951 and 1992, and data on more than 1 million Swedish women who had a first pregnancy between 1982 and 2012. Pregnancy can increase the risk of blood clots, which is among the leading causes of maternal death in the developed world.
Using the Swedish Multi-generation Register, the researchers identified siblings of different heights. They also used the national Swedish Hospital Register to track hospital inpatient and outpatient diagnoses of blood clots between 1969 and 2012.
The researchers found that the risk for blood clots decreased 69% for women shorter than about 5-foot-1, compared with women about 6 feet and taller. The risk dropped 65% for men shorter than about 5-foot-3, compared with men about 6-foot-2 and taller, the researchers found.
Among men, an association with height was found for risk of blood clots in the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, as well as in the legs and other locations. Among women, only the risk of blood clots in the legs was significantly associated with height.”2

Clots are deadly because they can break free from the vein and travel; because the blood has to travel up a vein against gravity, the longer distance it travels, the greater the risk of the blood clotting abnormally (something we don’t see this in arms because arm movement allows blood to easily flow out of the limb with the help of gravity). And if a clot is big enough, it can cause death, which is sometimes sudden.
The takehome is whether tall or short, being aware of any and all lifestyle factors that may increase your risk for blood clots, such as smoking or a sedentary lifestyle, are good to be aware of. While we might not have any control over our height, we can make healthy lifestyle choices to at least reduce the risk.

Sources and References

  1. CNN, September 6, 2017.
  2. CNN, September 6, 2017.