The same genes that are responsible for height have been linked to heart disease as well, according to British researchers who found shorter people are at a greater risk. For every 2.5 inch difference in height, the chance of contracting a heart disease increases by 13.5 percent. In other words, a 5-foot-tall person has an average 32 percent higher risk of heart disease than a person who’s 5-foot 6-inches tall, according to the researchers.
The team made in-depth genetic analyses of 18,000 people and identified a number of genes that play a role in human growth and development. Some of these, however, are linked with heart disease. This is something that has long been presumed, but only now confirmed with tantalizing evidence.
“We found that people who carry those genetic variants that lower your height and make you shorter are more likely to develop coronary heart disease,” said Dr. Nilesh Samani, a professor of cardiology and head of the department of cardiovascular sciences at the University of Leicester in England.
Yet, while they’ve found an association, the exact cause and effect relationship has yet to be identified. Doctors are now speculating what might be happening. It may be the case that some of these genes are affecting the growth of cells in the artery walls and the heart, making them more prone to clogging ( atherosclerosis). Other genes appear to be linked to inflammation in the body, which is another risk factor for heart disease, Dr. Ronald Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California who was not involved in the study.
Interestingly, the effect of height on heart disease risk may be gender-specific. “We found a clear-cut effect in men, but we didn’t see a clear-cut effect in women,” Samani said, adding that significantly fewer women in the study could have affected the statistics which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.