The Shorter You Are, the Higher Your Heart Disease Risk
Research looks at genetics in 200K people
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 9, 2015 8:06 AM CDT
The study shouldn't cause any worry for Shaquille O'Neal.   (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

(Newser) – It's tough enough being on the shorter side, and a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine doesn't make things any easier. Researchers in the UK find that being small of stature increases the risk of coronary heart disease, the Telegraph reports. More specifically, for every 2.5 inches shorter we are, our risk increases by 13.5%. In other words, a five-foot tall person has a 32% higher risk of heart disease than a five-foot-six person does. The findings, which involved data on 200,000 people, are tied to genetics; it seems the genes involved in height could also be involved in heart disease. "The more height-increasing genetic variants that you carry, the lower your risk of coronary heart disease—and conversely, if you were genetically shorter, the higher your risk," a researcher notes.

That is, at least if you're a man, NPR reports: Researchers didn't discover a clear relationship between height and heart disease risk in women, though that might just be because the study involved more male than female subjects. Experts have been aware of an apparent relationship between height and heart disease since the 1950s without being able to explain it, NPR notes. In fact, the New York Times reports that researchers didn't take the idea that the two were linked very seriously, making these findings a surprise. "This idea that shorter stature is associated with coronary artery disease is something we would laugh about," notes one scientist. Another expert still has doubts, telling the Times that the connection appears "weak." And on the plus side for short men, a study last year found they live longer.