Your height can predict the kind of heart problems you might get

Do you ever wish you had a crystal ball that could tell you what your health will be like in the future?

I do. Because maybe, if I knew I was going to have a heart attack in 20 years or get cancer in 30 years, I could make changes now that would totally shift my destiny.

Obviously, you can (and should) make healthy changes without knowing what the future holds. But wouldn’t it help to know where to focus your attention?

Unfortunately, crystal balls aren’t a realistic option for assessing your future health risks. But there’s another tool you can use to peer into your heart health future a little…

Your height.

A recent review of the research shows that your height may be the next best thing to a crystal ball when it comes to predicting your heart health… and minimizing your risks…

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Heart risks at every height

Recently, the American Heart Association reviewed the available research on the connection between height and heart health. And they determined that you have unique heart health risk whether you’re short or tall. For example, tall people…

  • Are more likely to have atrial fibrillation, a condition where your heart quivers or beats irregularly. Atrial fibrillation is dangerous because it increases your risk of blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
  • Tall people are also at risk for Marfan syndrome. People with Marfan syndrome are tall and slender with unusually long arms, legs and fingers. They may also have a protruding or sunken breastbone; a high, arched palate and crowded teeth; heart murmurs; extreme nearsightedness; an oddly curved spine; and flat feet. People with Marfan syndrome need to beware of heart valve problems and aorta abnormalities, since they’re more common with the disease.

If you’re breathing a sigh of relief because you’re short, not so fast… you have your own heart risks…

  • Short people are more likely to get a form of heart disease called coronary artery disease. In coronary artery disease, plaque builds up in your arteries causing them to narrow and reduce blood flow to your heart. If enough plaque builds up to block an artery completely, you have a heart attack.
  • If you were short for your age during childhood, you may have an increased risk of stroke too. A Danish study that included data from over 300,000 schoolchildren born over six decades found that people who were 2 to 3 inches shorter than their peers between the ages of seven and 13 were also significantly more likely to have a stroke as an adult. Yikes!

Helping your heart

Even though tall and short people deal with unique heart risks, short people get the shorter end of the stick, according to researchers. Their heart risks are more serious, and more likely to turn deadly.

That means, if you’re on the short side, you may want to pay extra special attention to your heart health. But in the end, whether you’re Danny DeVito or Shaquille O’Neal, it wouldn’t hurt to give your heart some extra love.

You can do that by following these five Harvard-approved heart health habits that in certain studies reduced heart attack and heart disease risk by as much as 83 percent:

  1. Don’t smoke. Cigarettes damage the lining of your arteries and make them more prone to fatty build-up.
  2. Getting your heart pumping daily is probably the best way to keep it healthy. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
  3. Keep your weight in a healthy range. Carrying extra weight makes your heart work harder, and eventually that added stress can take a toll on your ticker.
  4. Eat a fresh, healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, poultry and healthy fats are awesome for your heart. Processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks and desserts aren’t so awesome.
  5. Drink in moderation. There are conflicting reports about whether moderate drinking is good for your heart or not. Some studies show that it reduces your risk of heart failure. Other evidence shows that even moderate drinking increases your risk of atrial fibrillation. But one thing is for sure…if you are going to drink, stick to one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.

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  1. Does your height play a role in heart risks? — MedicalXpress. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  2. What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? — American Heart Association. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  3. Marfan syndrome — Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  4. Coronary artery disease — Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  5. Smoking — British Heart Foundation. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  6. These five habits can save your heart — here’s how — Harvard Medical School. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and