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These Are The Health Issues Being Tall Puts You At Risk Of

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Rachael Funnell

Social Editor and Staff Writer

clockJun 2 2022, 19:00 UTC
tall risk factor disease

It's not all bad; being tall is also associated with a lessened risk of certain problems like high blood pressure. Image credit: XiXinXing / Shutterstock.com

Being tall has many benefits (including the attractiveness of headless torsos, apparently) but new research has found it carries some downsides, too, as it revealed certain health conditions are more likely to afflict longer humans. While heart disease and cancer have previously been linked to height, until now research hadn’t been able to separate factors such as nutrition and socioeconomic status – both of which can alter a person’s height – from the equation.

Now, new research published in PLOS Genetics has looked specifically at a person’s genetically-predicted height as well as their actual height to see how these linked up with various diseases and health conditions. To do so, they borrowed data from the VA Million Veteran Program, giving them access to the health and genetic information of over 250,000 people.

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Health conditions associated with genetically-predicted height included an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, lumpy blood vessels known as varicose veins, and peripheral neuropathy: a type of nerve damage that can cause weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet and something that's not before been associated with height. Another novel finding was that tall people were found to also have an increased risk of skin and bone infections, such as ulcers.

Being tall isn’t all bad, however, as it was also found to be associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as coronary heart disease.

The research is the largest of its kind to study the association between height and disease having included over 1,000 conditions in the analyses, though its sample consists of an unequal proportion of Black (~50,000) and white (~200,000) people. However, they suggest that the support it lends to height contributing to disease likelihood means being tall may constitute a risk factor for certain health conditions and diseases in humans which, before now, has been overlooked.

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“Using genetic methods applied to the VA Million Veteran Program, we found evidence that adult height may impact over 100 clinical traits, including several conditions associated with poor outcomes and quality of life – peripheral neuropathy, lower extremity ulcers, and chronic venous insufficiency,” said study lead Sridharan Raghavan of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, US, in a statement.

“We conclude that height may be an unrecognized non-modifiable risk factor for several common conditions in adults.”


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