Can your heart disease risk be influenced by your height? According to a study published in the European Heart Journal, the answer may be yes. The study, which analyzed data from 52 previously published studies on the height and heart problems of more than three million men and women, found that short people have a 50 percent greater risk of developing a heart problem or dying from heart disease than tall people. Factors such as weight, blood pressure and smoking, though, remain more important contributors to heart disease risk.

For the analysis, lead author of the study Tuula Paajanen, MD, a researcher in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Tampere in Finland, compared the tallest groups of people with the shortest groups. Short men were defined as those less than five-feet five-inches tall, while short women were those below five feet. Tall men were defined as those over five-feet nine-inches and tall women were over five-feet five-inches.

Compared with the tallest people, the shortest people were found to be nearly 1.5 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease or to live with heart disease or suffer a heart attack, according to the research findings.

Although the exact reasons why short people may be more prone to heart disease is unclear, the researchers speculated that shorter people have narrower arteries that may get blocked early in life due to such heart disease risk factors as poverty, poor nutrition and infections. However, recent genetic findings regarding body height suggests that inherited factors, rather than poor nutrition, may be the link between shortness and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reducing Your Risk for Heart Disease

While you can't do anything about your height, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet-A nutritious diet is one of the best weapons you have in your fight against cardiovascular disease. Choose a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole-grains and high-fiber foods, fish, lean protein and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Reduce blood cholesterol-Aim for a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL
  • Lower high blood pressure-Strive for a goal of less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Get moving-Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and keep you at a healthy weight