When it comes to developing heart disease, a person’s height may matter more than their diet. For shorter people, having poorly functioning lungs can cause heart disease, according to new research published Wednesday in Communications Biology.
“Understanding the causal relationship behind an observation such as the inverse relationship between adult height and heart disease risk is important in advancing our knowledge about the disease and has the potential to point towards lifestyle interventions that can impact disease prevention,” said Panos Deloukas, a researcher from Queen Mary University of London and study senior author, in a news release.
The researchers found that the lung function had a bigger impact on whether shorter people developed traditional risk factors for heart disease like blood pressure, fat percentage, cholesterol and triglycerides.
“Our results suggest that we need to assess lung function alongside someone’s height to have a better handle in predicting their risk in developing heart disease,” Deloukas said.
The height of the average man in the U.S. is 5 feet 7, while the average woman is 5 feet 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Individuals of shorter statute can consider regular exercise and the avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle and smoking to reduce their risk of heart disease given that, as we showed in this study, the effect of shorter height on the risk of heart disease is mediated by lung function,” Deloukas said.
More than half the deaths in the U.S. result from heart disease, which kills more than 600,000 each year, the CDC says. Heart attacks are one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Nearly one in six men and one in ten women die from heart disease, therefore identifying heart disease risk factors, especially those that could be modified through early lifestyle interventions, is specifically important.
Heart and blood vessel disease (also called heart disease) includes numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers want to pinpoint the key risk factors for heart disease to more effectively cut down lifestyle behaviors that could reduce the risk of developing the condition.
“Our findings and further studies of this nature, empower efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and in particular physical activity that can lead to improved lung function,” Deloukas said.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.
Most people survive their first heart attack and return to their normal lives, enjoying many more years of productive activity. But experiencing a heart attack does mean that you need to make some changes.
The medications and lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends may vary according to how badly your heart was damaged, and to what degree of heart disease caused the heart attack.
An ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke) occurs when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked, usually from a blood clot.
When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, some brain cells will begin to die. This can result in the loss of functions controlled by that part of the brain, such as walking or talking.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain bursts. This is most often caused by uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
Some effects of stroke are permanent if too many brain cells die after being starved of oxygen. These cells are never replaced.
The good news is that sometimes brain cells don’t die during stroke — instead, the damage is temporary. Over time, as injured cells repair themselves, previously impaired function improves. (In other cases, undamaged brain cells nearby may take over for the areas of the brain that were injured.)
Either way, strength may return, speech may get better and memory may improve. This recovery process is what stroke rehabilitation is all about.
Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, means the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should. Heart failure does not mean that the heart stops beating — that’s a common misperception. Instead, the heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met.
Heart failure can get worse if left untreated. If your loved one has heart failure, it’s very important to follow the doctor’s orders.
Arrhythmia refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. There are various types of arrhythmias. The heart can beat too slow, too fast or irregularly.
Bradycardia, or a heart rate that’s too slow, is when the heart rate is less than 60 beats per minute. Tachycardia, or a heart rate that’s too fast, refers to a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute.
An arrhythmia can affect how well your heart works. With an irregular heartbeat, your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
Heart valve disease
When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, a condition called stenosis results. When the heart valves don’t close properly and thus allow blood to leak through, it’s called regurgitation. If the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber, it’s a condition called prolapse.