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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sign that increases the risk of early death in women

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The dramatic decrease in the height of women with age is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of death from stroke and cardiovascular disease, the scientists said.

Scientists from Sweden and Denmark concluded that a decrease in the height of women in middle age indicates an increased risk of premature death. 

The results of the study were published in the BMJ.

Once people reach their 50s, they begin to lose height, a process that accelerates in their 70s. The most common causes of height loss are vertebral disc shrinkage, spinal compression fractures, and postural changes.

While some height loss is a natural part of ageing, prior research indicates that it may also be associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

The team, therefore, sought to determine whether midlife height loss could be used to predict death from any cause, particularly heart disease/stroke, in 2406 Swedish and Danish women born between 1908 and 1952.

The 1147 Swedish women were recruited as part of the Swedish Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, whereas the 1259 Danish women were recruited as part of the MONItoring trends and determinants of CArdiovascular disease (MONICA) study.

At the start of each of these studies, when the women were between the ages of 30 and 60 (two-thirds were between the ages of 38 and 52), their height was measured without shoes and in the morning, and then again between the ages of 10 and 13 years later.

After the second height measurement, the date and cause of death were tracked for 17 to 19 years.

Weight, smoking, leisure-time physical activity, alcohol intake, and educational attainment were all recorded as potentially influential factors.

Between the first and second height measurements, the women lost an average of 0.8 cm, but the amount varied from 0 to 14 cm.

During the 19-year period of observation, 625 women died from various causes. However, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in 157 women over the course of 17 years, including 37 cases of stroke; 362 cases were due to other causes.

After adjusting for potentially influential factors, each cm of height loss was associated with a 14 percent and 21 percent increase in the odds of dying from any cause, respectively, among Swedish and Danish women.

Significant height loss, defined as greater than 2 cm, was associated with a 74 percent and an 80 percent increase in the risk of death, respectively, in two groups of women.

Major height loss was associated with a more than doubling of the risk of dying from stroke and all types of cardiovascular disease, as well as a 71 percent increased risk of dying from all other causes, according to a pooled analysis of the data.

These findings remained unchanged even after age, time between height measurements, nationality, and baseline height, weight, educational attainment, and lifestyle factors were taken into account.

As this is an observational study, it cannot establish main cause. Additionally, the researchers note that the number of stroke deaths was small, implying that the findings should be interpreted cautiously.

Nonetheless, the researchers conclude that midlife height loss is a risk factor for earlier death in northern European women.

They add that women who lose height have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, with death from stroke playing a significant role in this association.

“These findings suggest the need for increased attention to height loss to identify individuals at increased [cardiovascular disease] risk. Moreover, regular physical activity may be beneficial not only in prevention of [cardiovascular disease], but also in prevention of height loss,” they write.

Image Credit: Getty

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