Height Matters: Taller People Have Higher Risk Of Stroke, Heart Conditions

Being tall has many advantages but not when you want to keep a healthy heart. A new study shows that height contributes to the risk of developing a condition that could lead to complications, including stroke and heart failure.

Researchers found that people taller than 5 feet and 7 inches are more likely to have atrial fibrillation (AFib). This condition causes an irregular and rapid heartbeat. 

With every one inch increase in height, the risk of having AFib also increases by nearly 3 percent. Researchers said the study suggests that height may be a causal risk factor for AFib. 

"Our findings suggest it may be beneficial to incorporate height into risk-prediction tools for AFib," Michael Levin, lead study author and a cardiovascular medicine fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "While current guidelines advise against widespread screening for AFib, our findings show that a certain group of patients--specifically, very tall patients--may benefit from screening."

It is not the first time that height has been associated with AFib. Earlier studies showed that taller people are at risk of having an abnormal heart rhythm but did not identify how height directly contributes to the condition. 

AFib affects more than 33 million people around the world. The abnormal heart rhythm has been linked to problems with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. 

To understand the link between AFib and height, the Penn researchers analyzed data from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Trials (GIANT) consortium, which involved over 700,000 people. The team also looked into the findings of the Atrial Fibrillation Genetics (AFGen) consortium that studies 500,000 individuals.

Researchers focused on genetic variants associated with height and AFib. Results showed that the same variants linked to height were also strongly associated with the heart condition. 

The team then conducted individual level analysis involving 7,000 people. The link between being tall and AFib remained even with a different group of participants. 

"These analyses show how we can use human genetics to help us better understand causal risk factors for common disease," Scott Damrauer, senior study author and an assistant professor of surgery at Penn Medicine, said. "They also illustrate how we can combine summary-level statistics from large published studies with individual level data from institutional biobanks to further our understanding of human disease."

Tall people Researchers found that people taller than 5 feet and 7 inches are more likely to have atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition linked to stroke and heart failure. Pixabay