There may be more to the causes of heart disease in men than the commonly accepted culprits like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. A new study of 22,000 male doctors suggests.
Dr. Luc Djousse of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues found that the taller men were, the lower their chance of developing congestive heart failure.
After responding to an initial questionnaire that asked about their height, weight, and health conditions, men filled out follow-up surveys which asked about new medical diagnosis each year. The report includes information from an average of 22 years of that previously described follow-up, during which 1,444 men, or about seven percent, developed congestive heart failure—that is, when the heart is not strong enough to pump blood out to the rest of the body, or when the heart does not fully relax after each beat.
The tallest men in the study, those over six feet, were 24 percent less likely to report a heart failure diagnosis during the study period than men who were five feet, eight inches, or shorter. This observation was made after the men’s age and weight, as well as whether or not they had high blood pressure or diabetes, had been taken into account.
This certainly does not mean, or should be taken to suggest that a few extra inches of height protects against heart disease in men, or that shorter men are decidedly doomed.
It is important to note that even with those considerations, the study can’t prove that something else wasn’t behind the relationship between height and heart failure risk, according to Jeffery Teuteberg, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. “From a day-to-day consideration, it’s not something we take into a big consideration when we’re thinking about risk.”
Dr. Claudia Langenberg, from University College London, thinks that “height” on its own may, in fact, point towards other factors. She told Reuters Health in an email that “despite its strong genetic determination, height is very sensitive to the influence of socio-economic influences on growth.”
In other words, while doctors usually end up in the same income bracket, the income bracket they grew up in could have a correlation here. Height could point towards a more privileged and healthy early life than some of the shorter doctors.
Djousse also suggested that childhood infections could both stunt growth and ultimately lead to plaque build-up in the arteries and high blood pressure, which is tied to heart failure.
“As much as we know about the development of very common diseases like heart failure, there’s still a lot we don’t know. All of the traditional risk factors we think of — there’s still a lot more that impacts the development of those diseases beyond those things,” Teuteberg stated.
It certainly seems possible to suggest that height, itself, does belong on the list of possible causes for a heart attack, but researchers agreed that, at the very least, the things should not concern or relieve anyone based on their height.
Teuteberg states: “This (finding) may lead to something much more interesting down the line.”