Study links women's middle-age height loss with greater risk of death

Research suggests that women who lose more height in middle age could be at greater risk of dying.Scientists have found that people who are shorter have a higher risk of developing heart disease. Researchers believe this is due to their genes.Researchers now believe that height loss in middle-age, at least for northern European women is linked to a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and other causes.According to Dr Sofia Klingberg, University of Gothenburg co-author of this research, height loss is not considered a risk factor but rather a sign for other causes.Researchers report in BMJ Open that they have analysed data from 2,406 Swedish- and Danish-born women who were part of long-term studies in these countries.At the beginning of the study, the average age of women in Sweden and Denmark was 47 years and 44, respectively. Height measurements were then taken about 10 to 13 more years later. The deaths of participants were then tracked for another 17 to 19 years.625 people died in total during the follow up period. 157 deaths were due to heart disease, and 37 to stroke. Over 11.4 years, the average height loss for women was 0.8 cm.As we age, our height decreases as a result of changes in the spine. Klingberg said that this can be caused by a reduction in height between the vertebrae in the spine.The team compared the two groups and considered factors like age, smoking, height, and weight at the beginning of the study. They found that for every centimetre of height that women lost between the measurements, there was a 15% higher risk of death from all causes. However, 74% of those who lost more height between the measurements had an increased risk of dying from any cause at any time in the future.Similar trends were found when the team looked at cardiovascular diseases deaths. They found a 21% increase in death rate for every centimetre of height loss, and nearly twice as many deaths for those who have lost more than 2cm. Although the risk of stroke from height loss was higher than the others, the team warns that stroke deaths are rare and should be considered cautiously.Further, the study found that women who exercise regularly and in high-intensity in their leisure time had less height loss than those who exercised four hours or more per week.Klingberg stated that high levels of physical activity are likely to lead to a lower height loss. This is due to a reduction in age-related bone loss as well as increased muscle strength and a more upright position.She added that the link between height loss, and death, remained even after exercise was considered.This research is the most recent to link height loss with mortality. However, results for women were previously mixed.Klingberg stated that keeping track of height loss can be beneficial. A decrease in height could lead to a health checkup.Scott Damrauer (a University of Pennsylvania vascular surgeon and scientist) praised the study.He said that the most probable explanation is that women are losing height and that this is contributing to an increase in death risk.Damrauer stated that he agrees with the authors about the possibility of low bone mineral density or frailty, and that their respective causes should be investigated.He said that if you can determine the cause of their height loss and address it, it might help their overall health, as well as their survival.