(HealthDay News) — Short people may be more likely to have coronary artery disease (CAD), and that increased risk could be linked to the genetics that also determine height, a British-led research team suggests. The study was published online April 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To better understand the cardiovascular risks associated with short stature, researchers pooled data from 2 recent international research efforts into the human genome, the first of which explored the genetics of height and the other the genetics of CAD, study coauthor Christopher O’Donnell, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the Framingham Heart Study for the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told HealthDay.

The research team first tested the association between a change in height and risk of CAD by examining 180 different height-associated genetic variants in 193,449 people, and concluded that there’s a relative 13.5% increase in CAD risk for every 2.5 inches shaved off a person’s height. They then drilled down to very specific individual genetic data from a smaller pool of 18,249 people. They identified a number of pathways by which genes related to height could also influence CAD risk.

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A person’s risk of CAD increases about 13.5% for every 2.5 inches of difference in height, the scientists said. That means a 5-foot-tall person has an average 32% higher risk of CAD than a person who’s 5-foot 6-inches tall, according to the researchers. 

Interestingly, the effect of height on CAD risk may be gender-specific. “We found a clear-cut effect in men, but we didn’t see a clear-cut effect in women,” study coauthor Nilesh Samani, M.D., of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, told HealthDay, adding that significantly fewer women in the study could have affected the statistics.


  1. Samani, NJ, et al. New England Journal of Medicine, April 8, 2015; doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1404881.