Can your height increase your risk of certain diseases?

  • Researchers have long studied a person’s height as a potential risk factor for certain diseases.
  • Scientists at Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center have found that height is linked to more than 100 clinical traits and medical conditions.
  • The researchers believe their findings can help healthcare professionals assess disease risk.

Over the years, scientists have considered a person’s height to be an unmodifiable risk factor for certain diseases. Previous research shows that a taller person may be at higher risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart diseasewhile a smaller person is more at risk of Type 2 diabetes.

However, much previous research has been unable to determine whether height is the primary factor or whether other factors, such as nutrition and environmental factors, are more of a cause.

A research team from Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center has found evidence that a person’s height impacts their susceptibility to certain diseases. Researchers have identified some conditions that were previously unrelated to height, including peripheral neuropathy and leg and foot ulcers.

The study appears in the journal PLOS genetics.

Researchers examined genetic and height data from the VA Million Veteran Program database for the study conducted by Dr Sridharan Raghavan, assistant professor at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Their dataset included information from over 200,000 white adults and over 50,000 black adults.

“Previous studies had used a method similar to the one we used – looking at associations with genetically predicted height – and found interesting associations with cardiovascular disease and socioeconomic status,” Dr Raghavan said. Medical News Today.

“Given that we had genetic data linked to clinical data in the VA Million Veteran program and that our understanding of genetic predictors of height had expanded since these earlier studies, we thought this was an opportunity to research disease associations across a wider range of conditions,” he explained.

Researchers looked at over 1,000 conditions and traits and found that adult height was associated with over 100 clinical traits, including several medical conditions.

For example, researchers have observed a link between taller height and an increased risk of developing leg and foot ulcers, peripheral neuropathy, and venous circulatory disorders.

When asked why a taller person might be at higher risk for certain diseases, Dr. Raghavan explained that it was no surprise to see fundamental processes like growth and metabolism – which are related to size – linked to many aspects of health.

“In some cases, the associations we observed may be related to shared biological processes between growth/size and physiology,” he added. “In other cases, the connection/mechanism will be due to the physical effects of large size rather than a biological process.”

Dr Raghavan said the correlation between height and chronic venous circulatory disorders in the lower extremities may be related to physical distance and different pressure dynamics in the venous circulatory system that affect taller individuals.

“The association of peripheral neuropathy may also be something physical related to peripheral nerve length in tall people and potential for injury/loss, but these are only speculation. Associations of infection are still more difficult to explain as they are also associated with other conditions we have found to be associated with height – neuropathy and chronic venous insufficiency.Future work will hopefully elucidate the mechanisms underlying this these connections.

– Dr. Raghavan

Because height is an unmodifiable risk factor, how can these results help healthcare providers prevent disease?

“Our results are a first step towards the potential inclusion of height in disease risk assessment, as we identify conditions for which height might truly be a risk factor,” said Dr Raghavan. . “Future work should assess whether integrating height into disease risk assessment can inform strategies to modify modifiable risk factors for specific conditions.”

“In other words, it would be a form of personalization of care that incorporates size into how we individualize risk factor modification or treatment – ​​our study does not directly address this critical issue but hopefully provides the, a starting point of evidence for these future studies,” he said. added.

DTM also spoke with Dr Medhat Mikhaelpain management specialist and medical director of the nonoperative program at Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., about this issue.

“Although the size cannot be changed, the risks can be mitigated, so you can get ahead and control the disease so that peripheral neuropathy does not develop,” he explained. “Knowing that this person is at much higher risk (helps detect it) early so you can treat them early so they don’t progress and start developing complications, like ulcers, foot infections , etc.”

For the next steps in this research, Dr. Mikhael would like to see a follow-up of patients for whom height was considered a risk and who received early treatment to see if it made a difference compared to those without early detection and treatment. .

“I also want to see if these patients can be followed up and their disease much better controlled than people who (were) not (considered) for this risk”, he added. “And see what the difference in timing and development is – could we have completely prevented the development of the complication of peripheral neuropathy by controlling the disease and its progression.”


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