Eirini MarouliWilliam Harvey Research InstituteBarts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London

Shorter Individuals at Greater Risk of Heart Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Eirini MarouliWilliam Harvey Research InstituteBarts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London

Eirini Marouli

Eirini Marouli
William Harvey Research Institute
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: Epidemiological studies suggest that shorter stature is associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) or type 2 diabetes (T2D). It is not clear though whether these associations are causal or there are other factors mediating these effects. When randomized trials are inappropriate or impossible, we can use Mendelian Randomisation as a good alternative to study the causal relationship between a trait and a disease. Here, we examined over 800 places in the human genome known to be associated with adult height and evaluated how genetically predicted height can affect the risk of CAD or T2D. Furthermore, we evaluated the role of several risk factors including, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, body mass index, fat percentage, socio-economic parameters including education and income as well as lung function. Lung function was assessed by spirometry measures including FEV1: forced expiratory volume in 1 second, FVC: forced vital capacity.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We show that for every ~6.5 cm lower height, the risk of coronary heart disease increases on average by 16%. Traditional risk factors for heart disease accounted only for a small part of the effect of height on heart disease risk. The relation between shorter stature and increased risk of heart disease was not affected after taking into account the effect of education or income. Our results show though that lung function accounted for most of the effect of height on heart disease.

We also found no evidence of a causal link between height and type 2 diabetes risk once an individual’s body mass index was taken into account.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: It is very important to understand the causal relationship behind an observation. Understanding the role of other related factors in the inverse relationship between height and heart disease is very crucial in order to point towards interventions that can impact disease prevention and management. Our results suggest that it is important to assess lung function alongside an individual’s height for evaluation of heart disease risk. These findings suggest that clinicians may consider evaluating lung function through spirometry more regularly, especially in people who are at the lower height range. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research will address the role of additional factors in the relationship between shorter stature and increased risk of heart disease. Our findings and further studies of this nature, can have implications in heart disease prediction and management, especially in individuals at risk.

No disclosures


Eirini Marouli, M. Fabiola Del Greco, Christina M. Astley, Jian Yang, Shafqat Ahmad, Sonja I. Berndt, Mark J. Caulfield, Evangelos Evangelou, Barbara McKnight, Carolina Medina-Gomez, Jana V. van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, Helen R. Warren, Zhihong Zhu, Joel N. Hirschhorn, Ruth J. F. Loos, Zoltan Kutalik, Panos Deloukas. Mendelian randomisation analyses find pulmonary factors mediate the effect of height on coronary artery disease. Communications Biology, 2019; 2 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-019-0361-2 


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Last Updated on April 2, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD