Heart Health

Height and heart disease: A genetic connection

h0715j16207252330204Shorter people are more likely than taller people to have clogged heart arteries. New research suggests that part of the reason for this long-held observation lies in our genes.

Earlier research identified 180 spots on the genome that vary according to a person's height. For the new study, researchers scrutinized the genes of nearly 200,000 people to see whether those with genetic traits for short stature also had a higher risk for heart disease. For a person who is 2.5 inches shorter than average, the risk of heart disease increases by about 13.5%. The shorter a person is, the greater the effect. A small number of the height-related genetic variants had clear connections to heart disease, such as links to some genes that affect levels of artery-clogging fats in the blood. But these accounted for only a third of the effect. That means that most of the heart disease risk related to being short is tied to other factors that remain elusive. The findings appeared in the April 23, 2015, New England Journal of Medicine.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.