The Super-Tall Tend to Die Young—but Why?

Phenomenon may be linked to how excess growth hormone affects the heart
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2017 8:54 PM CST
The Super-Tall Tend to Die Young—but Why?
In this file photo from Nov. 4, 2013, "Game of Thrones" actor Neil Fingleton is shown.   (Geoff Caddick/PA via AP File)

Andre the Giant may be the most well-known; Neil Fingleton, who played Mag the Mighty on Game of Thrones, is the most recent. Both actors were seriously tall men who died young (Andre was 46, Fingleton 36), and Gizmodo wants to know why. The site looks into the common fate of early death shared by many vertically extreme individuals, who typically attain their height due to growth hormone issues starting at the pituitary gland, resulting in either gigantism (which usually begins before the affected party even hits puberty) or acromegaly, which bombards individuals with excess hormones after they think they've stopped growing. All that extra hormone action and height can lead to heart issues, which often end the patients' lives.

Heart failure is the most common cause of death in these cases, says an Indiana University clinical professor, who adds, "The heart is more stretched to supply this huge [person] with blood." Insulin production can also be stymied by too much hormone, leading to diabetes. Men's Health assures those on the higher end of the measuring stick they shouldn't fret too much: Maintaining a healthy but low BMI, eating right, and keeping other factors like smoking in check collectively have more to do with how long you live than height alone. And in some cases, tall people even fared better when it came to lowering the risk of certain diseases. Meanwhile, scientists have recently turned their focus to the GPR101 gene, which may be linked to growth hormone disorders and could be targeted in future treatments, per Medscape. (This acromegaly sufferer was only 34 when she died.)

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