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26-01-2012 | Cardiology | Article

Heart disease risk inversely linked to height in childhood


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MedWire News: The risk for adult coronary heart disease (CHD) is inversely related to height between the ages of 7 and 13 years, say European researchers.

Shorter stature in childhood and rapid growth close to puberty were associated with increased CHD risk in adulthood, report Karri Silventoinen, from the University of Helsinki in Finland, and co-authors. Their research was published in PLoS One.

Silventoinen and team analyzed the heights of 232,063 children born 1930 through 1976 who attended a school in the municipality of Copenhagen, Denmark. The heights of these children were measured annually between the ages of 7 and 13. Birth weight data was also available from 1936, and fatal and nonfatal CHD events were determined using register linkage until 2008 for 25,214 cases.

The findings revealed that height z-score was inversely related to the risk for CHD. This association was strongest at 7 years of age, at hazard ratios of 0.91 in boys and 0.88 in girls. It steadily weakened thereafter, but remained significant at 13 years of age, at hazard ratios of 0.95 and 0.91 in boys and girls, respectively.

The association between height and CHD risk was not modified by birth weight, the authors note.

After adjusting for age, rapid growth, defined as change in relative height between two ages, was associated with an increased CHD risk and was most pronounced in girls between the ages of 9 and 11 years, at a hazard ratio of 1.22 per unit increase in z-score, and between the ages of 11 and 13 years in boys, at a hazard ratio of 1.28 per unit increase in z-score.

Adjustment for body mass index strengthened the association between CHD risk and height but weakened the association with growth, the authors add.

"This change was more visible at older ages. These findings strongly suggest that further investigations of the underlying biological processes that the growth-CHD association is driven by are warranted," they write.

"Physical development in childhood thus captures important information on the childhood environment, such as socio-economic factors and nutrition, which are important for further cardiovascular health."

"Thus our results support the importance of optimal living conditions in childhood for a future healthy life."

Silventoinen and team conclude: "Unraveling the biological pathways of this association and the exploration of the utility of the association in prevention of CHD are tasks for future research."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Piriya Mahendra

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