The world’s largest study on height and disease sought to better understand the common infections and illnesses to which the tall people among us are more susceptible.
Few things were more boring than going through a growth spurt in high school. Along with having to swing at school in pants that now ended an inch or two from your ankle, there was the muscle soreness and general awkwardness that came with that newly discovered waist. Where it once happened that you could have conversations with professors without suddenly being made aware of the height difference, soon after you started hunching your shoulders and trying, desperately, to seem smaller. Of course, the growing pains were short-lived and now that’s all everyone wants: height. You only need to browse Tinder’s bios to see that for those lucky enough to have vertical length, theirs is something to splash bold on their profiles.
But when it comes to being tall, there are certain health factors to be aware of. Or at least this study thinks we should be. Thanks to the world’s largest study on height and disease, it has been revealed that taller people have an increased risk of peripheral neuropathy, as well as skin and bone infections. But despite this, taller people are also known to have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The research, led by Sridharan Raghavan of Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in the US, found that a person’s height increases and reduces their risk of various diseases. With a finding published in the journal PLOS Genetics, height has been shown to be a factor associated with multiple common conditions, ranging from heart disease to cancer.
The study is tricky, however, and it has long been something that has perplexed scientists and researchers. Ultimately, scientists have struggled to determine whether being short or tall is what puts people at risk, as well as whether it’s height or other factors that might affect it, like nutrition and socioeconomic status. The researchers decided to remove these factors from the study by looking separately at the links between various diseases and a person’s actual height.
Using data from the VA Million Veteran Program, including genetic and health information from more than 200,000 white adults and more than 50,000 black adults, the study examined more than 1,000 conditions and traits. The results confirmed findings from smaller trials, where height was linked to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation and varicose veins, and a lower risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Researchers have also found links to height and a higher risk of skin and bone infections such as leg and foot ulcers.
Although more studies are needed to clarify the findings, researchers believe that height may be a previously unrecognized risk factor for several common diseases. As Raghavan explained to The Guardian. “We found evidence that adult height can impact more than 100 clinical traits, including several conditions associated with poor outcomes and poor quality of life – perisperal neuropathy, lower extremity ulcers and chronic venous insufficiency. We conclude that height may be an unrecognized, non-modifiable risk factor for several common conditions in adults.