05:46am Friday 24 November 2017

Can height increase risk for blood clots in veins?

Study Highlights

  • Risk of blood clots in the veins was associated with height, with the lowest risk in participants who were five feet tall or shorter.
  • The exact association between height and clots in veins remains to be determined.

DALLAS – The taller you are, the more likely you may be to develop blood clots in the veins, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

In a study of more than two million Swedish siblings, researchers found that the risk of venous thromboembolism – a type of blood clot that starts in a vein – was associated with height, with the lowest risk being in shorter participants.

They also found:

  • For men shorter than 5’3”, the risk for venous thromboembolism dropped 65 percent when compared to the men 6’2” or taller.
  • For women, shorter than 5’1” who were pregnant for the first time, the risk for venous thromboembolism dropped 69 percent, compared to women that were 6 feet or taller.

“Height is not something we can do anything about,” said lead researcher Bengt Zöller, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at Lund University and Malmö University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden. “However, the height in the population has increased, and continues increasing, which could be contributing to the fact that the incidence of thrombosis has increased.”

The CDC estimates venous thromboembolism affects up to 600,000 Americans every year, making it the third leading cause of heart attack and stroke. The most common triggers are surgery, cancer, immobilization and hospitalization. In women, pregnancy and use of hormones like oral contraceptive or estrogen for menopause symptoms are also important triggers.

Zöller said gravity may influence the association between height and venous thromboembolism risk. “It could just be that because taller individuals have longer leg veins there is more surface area where problems can occur,” Zöller said. “There is also more gravitational pressure in leg veins of taller persons that can increase the risk of blood flow slowing or temporarily stopping.”

One caution is that researchers didn’t have access to data for childhood and parent lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and physical activity. In addition, the study consisted primarily of Swedish people and may not be translatable to the U.S. population. Although, researchers note, the Swedish population nowadays is as ethnically diverse as the U.S. population.

“I think we should start to include height in risk assessment just as overweight, although formal studies are needed to determine exactly how height interacts with inherited blood disorders and other conditions,” Zöller said.

Co-authors are Jinguang Ji, M.D., Ph.D.; Jan Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., and Kristina Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

This study was supported by the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research and the Swedish Freemasons’ Foundation, ALF-funding (Academic Learning and Research grants) from faculty of Medicine, Lund University and Region Skåne.

 

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Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 


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