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Height loss in older men associated with increased risk of heart disease, death

Men who lose 3 centimeters or more of height as they age have an increased risk of death and of coronary heart diseases events, according to a report in the December 11/25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Changes in bone, muscles and joints typically lead men and women to become shorter as they age, according to background information in the article. Although a small amount of height loss is normal and probably not associated with any disease, more significant height loss may be a sign of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Substantial height loss can affect breathing and digestive functions, leading to poor eating habits and weight loss, and may be associated with sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass.

S. Goya Wannamethee, Ph.D., Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, and colleagues studied 4,213 men who originally enrolled in the British Regional Heart Study between 1978 and 1980. Follow-up examinations were conducted 20 years later, when the men were 60 to 79 years old. At that time, the men completed a questionnaire providing details about their lifestyle and medical history. They were asked to describe their current health statusexcellent, good, fair or poorand whether their physician had ever told them they had cardiovascular disease or a number of other conditions. Participants height and weight were measured both at the beginning of the study and at the 20-year follow-up; they were monitored through 2004 to see if they had developed cardiovascular disease, and deaths were tracked through 2005.

Between the initial examination and the 20-year follow-up, the men lost an average of 1.67 centimeters of height. The researchers divided the participants into four groups based on how much their height changed: 1,471 lost less than 1 centimeter; 1,330 lost between 1 and 1.9 centimeters; 807 lost between 2 and 2.9 centimeters; and 605 were 3 centimeters shorter or more.
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Contact: S. Goya Wannamethee
goya@pcps.ucl.ac.uk
JAMA and Archives Journals
11-Dec-2006


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