(HealthDay News) — Short people may be more likely to have coronary artery disease (CAD), and that increased risk could be linked to the genetics that also determine height, a British-led research team suggests. 

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To better understand the cardiovascular (CV) risks associated with short stature, researchers pooled data from two recent international research efforts into the human genome, one of which explored the genetics of height and the other the genetics of CAD, study coauthor Christopher O’Donnell, MD, MPH, associate director of the Framingham Heart Study for the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told HealthDay.

The research team first tested the association between a change in height and risk of CAD by examining 180 different height-associated genetic variants in 193,449 people, and concluded that there’s a relative 13.5% (95% CI, 5.4-22.1) increase in CAD risk for every 2.5 inches shaved off a person’s height. 

They then drilled down to very specific individual genetic data from a smaller pool of 18,249 people. Specifically, data indicated that people with an increased number of height-raising alleles had a decreased risk for CAD (quartile 4 vs. quartile 1, OR=0.74; 95% CI, 0.68-0.84).

The researchers also assessed height’s relationship with 12 CV risk factors. However, they only found significant associations with LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which accounted for approximately 30% of the association, according to the data.

Results also identified a number of pathways by which genes related to height could also influence CAD risk. 

“For example, the pathway that is identified as ‘factors affecting cardiogenesis’ is an amalgam of other pathways and overlaps with signaling pathways for bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), and all three of these pathways share genes with other pathways. Likewise, there is overlap between the signaling pathways for growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1),” the researchers wrote.

Interestingly, they noted the effect of height on CAD risk may be gender-specific. 

“We found a clear-cut effect in men, but we didn’t see a clear-cut effect in women,” study coauthor Nilesh Samani, MD, of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, told HealthDay, adding that significantly fewer women in the study could have affected the statistics.


  1. Nelson CP et al. N Engl J Med. 2015;doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1404881.