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Shorter height is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Shorter height is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Height and the heart

Being short in stature puts a person at an increased risk for heart disease, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at the University of Leicester reported that every 2.5 inches of change in height affects coronary heart disease risk by 13.5 percent. Put another way, on average, a five-foot tall person has a 32 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease than someone who is five feet, six inches tall, researchers said.

Study leader Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said medical professionals have known of the relationship between height and heart disease for more than 60 years, but until now, it was not clear whether that was due to poor childhood environmental factors that influenced adult height or due to a person’s genes. With their latest research, he said, researchers have shown that the association between shorter height and higher risk of coronary heart disease is a “primary relationship and not due to confounding factors.”

“While we know about many lifestyle factors such as smoking that affect the risk of coronary heart disease, our findings underscore the fact that the causes of this common disease are very complex, and other things that we understand much more poorly have a significant impact,” said Samani, noting that while his team’s findings have no immediate clinical implications, more research could pave the way for new methods of prevention and treatment.


High-risk divorce

Divorce puts women at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack, according to a study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.

A Duke Clinical Research Institute study in which nearly 16,000 adults aged 45-80 were interviewed every two years from 1992-2010 about their health and marital status found that women experiencing two or more divorces were nearly twice as likely as women in continuous marriages to have a heart attack. Study participants all had been married at least once, and about one-third went through at least one divorce during the study period.

The study found also that even after remarrying, divorced women’s heart attack risk was increased.

Among men who divorced once, the risk of suffering a heart attack was about the same as the risk for men who remained married. After going through two or more divorces, men had an elevated heart attack risk, but divorced men who remarried experienced the same risk as their peers who were continuously married to one partner.

“Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences,” lead study author Matthew Dupre said. “But this is one of the first studies to look at the cumulative effect of divorce over a long period. We found that it can have a lasting imprint on people’s health.”


Five days of high-fat foods

Taking a week off from following a sensible diet may not seem like a big deal, but new research suggests otherwise.

A study at Virginia Tech demonstrated that after less than a week on a high-fat diet, a person’s muscles change the way the body processes nutrients, and the results could be significant.

Researchers recruited healthy college students to consume diets that consisted of the same number of calories they typically consumed but that contained 50 percent fat rather than a normal diet of about 30 percent fat. After five days, the students had not gained weight, but the way their muscles metabolized glucose had been altered, which could lead to the body’s ability to respond to insulin – a risk factor for diabetes and other diseases.

“This shows that our bodies can respond dramatically to changes in diet in a shorter timeframe than we have previously thought,” researcher Matt Hulver said. “There are plenty of times when we all eat fatty foods for a few days, be it the holidays, vacations or other celebrations. But this research shows that those high-fat diets can change a person’s normal metabolism in a very short timeframe.”

Next, Hulver and his team want to explore how those short-term metabolic changes might adversely affect the body in the long run and how quickly those changes can be reversed once a person resumes a low-fat diet.


On the calendar

“Skin Cancer Screening: Only Skin Deep” is from 8:30-11 a.m. on Saturday, May 16 at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 150 Entrance Way in St. Peters. Attendees receive a full body screening; a gown is provided. Appointments are required and limited. Call 344-2273.

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