Height Loss in Older Men Tied to Heart, Death Risks

Shrinking 3 centimeters or more may trigger bone loss that increases chance of illness, study suggests

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TUESDAY, Dec. 12, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Men who grow significantly shorter as they age are at increased risk for heart disease and death, a new British study says.

The 20-year study of 4,213 men -- who were 60 to 79 years old when the study ended -- found that those who'd lost 3 centimeters or more of height were about 64 percent more likely to die and also more likely to suffer coronary heart diseases events than men who lost less than 1 centimeter of height.

The findings were published Dec. 11 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and other non-cancer diseases accounted for most of the additional deaths in the men who lost 3 centimeters or more of height.

The reasons for the association between height loss and increased risk of illness and death aren't clear, said the researchers from the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London. It's possible there could be an underlying mechanism that contributes to both bone loss, which results in height loss, and heart disease and other illnesses, the researchers said.

Many men and women become shorter as they age, due to changes in bone, muscles and joints. A small amount of height loss is normal, but more significant height loss may be a sign of osteoporosis. Major height loss can cause problems with breathing and digestion, resulting in poor eating habits and weight loss, according to background information in the article.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about age-related changes in body shape.

American Medical Association, news release, Dec. 11, 2006

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