A new study published in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics – a journal of the American Heart Association – suggested that there is an increased probability of developing blood clots in the veins with an increase in height.
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According to the study that analyzed 2 million Swedish siblings, the risk of venous thromboembolism (a kind of blood clots that initiates from veins) was related with height. Shorter participants were identified as having a lowest risk.
The study findings pointed out that for men taller than 6’2”, the risk for venous thromboembolism was increased by 65% when compared to men shorter than 5’3”. Also, for women shorter than 5’1” undergoing their first pregnancy, the risk of venous thromboembolism was 69% less than in women who were 6 feet tall or taller.
Bengt Zöller, lead researcher and an associate professor at Lund University and Malmö University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden commented that while height is not something one can alter, there has been an increase in the average height in the population , which continues to rise and may be contributing to the increased occurrence of thrombosis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 600,000 Americans are affected by venous thromboembolism every year, depicting it as the third major cause of stroke and heart attack. While cancer, hospitalization, surgery, and immobilization are common triggers of the condition, in women the use of hormones like oral contraceptive or estrogen (for symptoms of menopause) and pregnancy are seen as important triggers .
Explaining that the gravity might influence the link between height and risk of venous thromboembolism, Zöller added that the increased risk might simply be because of the longer leg veins in taller individuals which increase the surface area where problems may occur.
“There is also more gravitational pressure in leg veins of taller persons that can increase the risk of blood flow slowing or temporarily stopping".
Even though further studies are needed to identify the way by which height interacts with inherited blood disorders and other conditions, Zöller suggested height should be included in risk assessments.
The study had two major limitations: (a). inability of the researchers to access data related to childhood and parent lifestyle factors like, diet, physical activity and smoking, (b). the study sampled mainly Swedish people and so, it might not be adaptable for the U.S. population.