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Women’s middle-age height loss linked with greater risk of death, study finds



Height loss in middle-aged women has been linked to a higher risk of early death, primarily from heart disease, according to research from Denmark and Sweden.

The study of 2,406 women born between 1908 and 1952 found each centimetre loss in height meant between 14% and 21% greater odds of death, after adjusting for other factors. Major height loss – greater than 2 cm – was associated with 74% and 80% higher mortality risk.

Reasons for death included cardiovascular disease in 157 examples, including 37 cases of stroke, while 362 were due to other causes. The findings show ‘the need for increased attention to height loss to identify individuals at increased cardiovascular disease risk,’ the study authors warned.

But they also found short stature and physical activity – including participation in competitive sports – was associated with less heigh[CS1]  loss and lower cardiovascular disease risk, independent of age.

Researchers measured heights of Danish and Swedish women at an average age of 47 and 44 respectively, and again between 10 and 13 years later. Other factors including weight, smoking, physical activity, alcohol intake and educational attainment were also recorded.

The women lost an average of 0.8cm between the first and second height measurements over an average of 11.4 years, although the amount ranged from 0cm to 14cm.

Date and cause of death were monitored for 17 to 19 years after the second height measurement.

The study authors continued: ‘Height loss during mid-life is a risk marker for earlier mortality in northern European women.

‘Specifically, the hazard of cardiovascular disease mortality is increased in women with height loss, and the results suggested that stroke mortality may be a major contributor to the total CVD association.

People can start to lose height in their 50s, with the process – caused by shrinking of vertebral discs, spinal compression fractures and change in posture – speeding up in their 70s.


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