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Short or Tall: Which Is Worse For Your Health?

Posted in General Health 23 Jun, 2015

This is interesting. There's been a lot in the news recently about the pros and cons of your height in relation to your health. Let's take a look at the research.

If You Are Tall

A study of one million British women highlighted that cancer sufferers were often taller than average. This may be because they have more cells in their bodies and therefore more risk of those cells becoming cancerous - or there may be a link with growth hormones. It's thought that for every extra 10cm of height you have, you are 17% more likely to develop cancer.

Tall people are also more likely to break a bone. Some studies have shown that taller people are more prone to hip fractures - perhaps because they fall from a greater height.

In relation to emotional health, it's thought that taller people are happier. This is perhaps due to an evolutionary trait whereby taller people had more strength, resources and respect.

If You Are Short

The New England Journal of Medicine has published some research that shows shorter people are more at risk of heart-related illness, such as coronary heart disease. The research suggests that a 5ft person has a 32% higher risk than a 5' 6" person.

The genetics that make you short also boost your levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides which are factors that promote coronary artery disease. But surely you say it's because we have smaller arteries to begin with? Well no, women have smaller arteries than men - but women don't suffer from a greater degree of heart disease. We have a number of available medication for high cholesterol. Visit our high cholesterol page for more.

Shorter stature may also be linked to hearing problems. Shorter men were 3 times more likely to lose their hearing in loud manual jobs than taller men. It's thought this is due to lower a levels of hormone when the cochlea is developing.

But don't panic if you are shorter, it's thought that shorter men have more sex.

What Can You Do About It?

Differentials in height are not the main factor in whether or not you will develop cancer or coronary heart disease. The most important thing is to keep yourself healthy. Eating well, talking about your problems, staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy BMI are the best forms of defence against illness. Oh - and quit smoking too, because that is one of the major detriments to your health. It stunts growth in children and leads to all kinds of illness. Find out the best way to stop smoking through our stop smoking page.

Feed your kids well if you want them to be tall. Nutrition plays a big role in determining our height. Americans used to be the tallest race in the 18th and 19th centuries, but now that honour belongs to the Dutch. It's thought that an American diet with too much sugar and fat has lead to the switchover.

You will have the best (or worst) or both worlds if you measure yourself in the morning. You may be a centimetre taller then because your spine and cushioning discs have stretched out overnight. By bed-time you will be shorter again. I guess that's one way to work the system.


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