The Taller You Are, the Higher the Risk for These Diseases

But taller people benefit from a lower risk of conditions including heart disease: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2022 12:49 PM CDT
The Taller You Are, the Higher the Risk for These Diseases
Height measurements could be used in disease risk assessment, study authors say.   (Getty Images)

Height may be a previously unrecognized risk factor for several common diseases, according to the largest study of the link between height and disease thus far. The study using data from more than 222,000 white adults and more than 58,000 Black adults enrolled in the US Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program sought to understand how genetically predicted height factors into more than 1,000 conditions and traits, including heart disease and cancer, by removing other factors that affect height, such as socioeconomic status and nutrition, per the Guardian. Specifically, researchers focused on 3,290 gene variants known to influence height, per New Scientist.

"We found evidence that adult height may impact over 100 clinical traits, including several conditions associated with poor outcomes and quality of life," says study author Dr. Sridharan Raghavan of the University of Colorado and Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Previous research found height might impact over 50 traits, with taller people at a higher risk of atrial fibrillation (heart palpitations) and varicose veins but a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, per the Guardian. This study, published Thursday in PLOS Genetics, confirmed that while also finding links to other traits.

For example, those with a higher genetically predicted height have an increased risk of peripheral neuropathy, caused by nerve damage in the extremities; other circulatory problems, including chronic venous insufficiency; and skin and bone infections, like leg and foot ulcers, researchers found. "The taller you are, the higher the risk would be," per New Scientist. As "genetically predicted height and measured height are well correlated," a simple height measurement might be helpful to include in disease risk assessment, Raghavan tells New Scientist, though he adds more studies are needed to clarify links with some diseases. (More height stories.)

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