A team of international researchers announced that shorter stature increases the risk of heart disease. The scientists gathered genetic data from almost 200,000 men and women worldwide and, after compiling the results, estimated that each extra 2.5 inches of height offers a 13.5 percent reduction in heart disease risk, throughout the entire range of adult heights.

Sir Nilesh Samani, a professor of cardiology at the University of Leicester in England and lead author of the new study, said that someone who is 5-foot-6 has a 30 percent smaller chance of developing cardiac diseases than a person who is 5 feet tall.

The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine and researchers hope it could lead to other discoveries about the relationships between our native characteristics and heart disease.

The scientists were trying to prove the opposite, that height doesn’t have an impact on heart disease risk. The first person who suggested the two could be linked was Dr. Paul Dudley White, a cardiologist who was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s physician, in 1951.

He conducted a research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he observed that 97 men who had suffered heart attacks before age 40 were 2 inches shorter on average than other 146 healthy men.

It is not only height that increases the risk of heart disease, but also your ethnic background and other risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, diabetes or cholesterol.

Samani and his fellow specialists followed a different path than previous researchers, studying genetic variations that resulted in short stature and linking them to greater risk of heart disease.

Previous studies had classified 180 genetic variations that control height. Samani and his colleagues examined the genetic profiles of more than 200,000 people in order to find out if those variants also affected heart disease risk. The team found only small links: a slightly higher level of LDL, a form of cholesterol that increases heart disease risk, and to slightly higher levels of triglycerides, which are blood fats that are also constitute a risk.

Not everyone is very impressed by the new study. Dr. Kari Stefansson, chief executive of deCODE Genetics, explained the increase in heart disease risk was real but so small, that it could not be very meaningful.

Studies of huge DNA databases, like the new research, are offering scientists the answers to questions that seemed unanswerable.

Image Source: The Independent