How Your Height Affects Your Risk of Disease

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Height
Courtesy of Brian Evans (Flickr CC0)

Being tall is a very desirable trait, and it may increase a person’s risk of developing several serious diseases. Previous research has linked height to a range of negative outcomes, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke. A new study has found that being tall may increase an individual’s risk of more than 100 diseases. Researchers used genetic, physical, and environmental measures to examine the effects of height on the risk of 127 different conditions.

The study suggests that tall people have higher risks of heart disease, cancer, skin infections, and peripheral neuropathy. Those who are short have a lower risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Scientists at the Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs Medical Center have used data from over two million adults to examine the impact of height on these conditions. The results of the study are published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Although there are no studies confirming the causal link between height and these diseases, many of the symptoms are similar. Being taller protects an individual from the risk of developing certain diseases, such as peripheral neuropathy, bone infection, and chronic leg ulcers. In addition, the extra distance may cause other health problems like the legs, feet, and arms. Tall people may also be at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction, which are diseases of the peripheral nervous system.

How Tall Do You Need to Be?

Height
Courtesy of Archie (Flickr CC))

The effects of height are low and likely to be masked by other risk factors such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. According to a study from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, height has very little impact on an individual’s risk of developing a disease. A person’s height may be a risk factor for certain diseases.

Having a higher height may help people protect themselves from heart disease and diabetes. Researchers found that people who are taller have a less chance of heart disease and diabetes. This may be because tall people have larger lungs and stronger hearts. Furthermore, the overnutrition phenomenon may increase the production of hormones that regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Therefore, tall people are more likely to avoid developing these diseases. Despite the many benefits of being tall, height can be a risk factor for certain diseases.

The study, conducted by the University of Colorado, examined genetic data from 323,793 veterans. Researchers looked at 3290 genetic variants that affect height and assessed their association with more than 1,000 disease traits. The researchers found that a higher genetically predicted height is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and circulatory disorders, among other things. This association was even stronger for men and women who were taller than their average height.

Health Benefits of Being Taller

The health benefits of being taller include decreased risk of cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer is significantly lower in tall and obese men than in people of average height. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that there is a correlation between height and cancer risk. Taller women may be at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Taller women may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma, breast, and ovarian cancer.

A taller person may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease, and peripheral neuropathy. Taller people are also more susceptible to infections of the skin and bones, including varicose veins. Furthermore, they may also have a higher risk of peripheral neuropathy, which affects the nervous system in the feet and legs. But there is still a need for more research to determine the relationship between height and disease risk.

Being taller is also a risk factor for blood clots. This condition is called venous thromboembolism and occurs in the veins of the legs. This condition can be painful and lead to swelling but can be deadly if it obstructs blood flow to the lungs. Pulmonary embolism is characterized by chest pain, light-headedness, and rapid heart rate.

There are some cases in which being taller may reduce your risk of certain types of cancer. In one study of 100,000 women, scientists found that shorter women were at a lower risk of ovarian cancer. In addition, men who were shorter were less likely to develop prostate cancer. So while it is important to understand the effects of height on a person’s overall risk of cancer, tall people must remember that it is not a cure for any disease.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

New York Post: This is how tall you need to be before becoming at risk of more than 100 diseases; by Vanessa Chalmers
Wish TV: Being tall puts you at risk for over 100 diseases, study says
Healthline: How Your Height Affects Your Risk of Disease

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Brian Evans’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Susan Archie’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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