For a long time, the widely held belief has been that tall people are more likely to have heart health problems. Intuitively, this makes sense. The taller the person, the more distance blood travels, and the harder the heart has to work to make that happen. Over time, that could lead to complications, right?
Studies have shown that taller people are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other complications. Researchers found that for every one-inch increase in height, there was about a 3% corresponding increase in the risk of developing AFib.
That multiplies to a pretty big difference in AFIb risk for a 5’0” woman versus a 5’6” woman or a 5’6” man versus a 6’0” man. However, it is important to remember that AFib is relatively common and does not always lead to more severe heart complications.
And now, a new study found that height was inversely associated with cardiovascular disease risk, meaning that taller subjects were less likely to develop various forms of cardiovascular disease. The important thing to note about this study versus some other research investigating height and heart health is that this was a comprehensive review of 20 separate studies. This gives the results more validity than the results from a single study.
It seems there is a real correlation between height and heart health, and it isn’t quite what you may expect. So why is it that shorter people might be more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, according to this study?
Heart health and height are correlated, it seems, but the body is complex
The study’s authors suspect that it might have something to do with adequate nutrition in childhood. If children aren’t eating the right foods in their developing years, there is a known impact that will have on height. Poor nutrition is also a risk factor for heart disease, hence why researchers suspect a correlation between the two.
There is also the suspicion that the growth hormone IGF-1 might have a role to play in the risk of developing heart disease, but this is still just a theory.
The key takeaway? Science is complicated. If all you are doing is reading the headlines or abstracts of studies, it is easy to find yourself confused about what the research actually supports. Study A will say one thing, but study B will say the opposite. This happens all the time, especially when it comes to health, nutrition, and exercise.
So should you start reading the full scientific studies to better understand how to optimize your health? Who’s got time for that? We have a turkey to defrost, sides to cook, and desserts to bake over the next few days.
The important thing to take away from this is to take headlines and studies with a grain of salt. When it comes to your health and nutrition, focus on the basics and things in your control. Last I checked, there is nothing you can do to change your height, so eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, exercise regularly, prioritize good sleep, and hydrate adequately.
It is that simple.
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