Tall men and women are more likely to suffer from deadly blood clots in the leg veins and lungs according to a new Swedish study that examined the government medical records of 3 million people. The health records used were only available for men in the military or pregnant women.

The study is unique because it looked at only siblings, and was able to reduce the variability in the subject’s environment that may affect the results. “Socioeconomic factors like education and poverty can confound results,” said the study’s lead author Bengt Zoller, MD., of Lund University and Skane University Hospital in Sweden.  “One way to adjust for that is a sibling design because they share the same socioeconomic background,” he said.

The researchers examined a condition called venous thromboembolism, which occurs when a blood clot is in the deep veins of the leg (deep vein thrombosis) or in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Veinous thromboembolism has been found to affect 300,000 to 600,000 Americans each year, and results in the deaths of tens of thousands according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The study was published in the “Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics,” and showed that about 2 percent of the 96,813 men who were 6 foot 2 inches and taller suffered from venous thromboembolism.  This is twice as much as the rate of 0.7 percent among the 2,759 men studied who were under 5 foot 2 inches tall.

For those who are pregnant, the hormones and blood flow to the legs is lower due to the pressure of the fetus on the veins.  As a result the danger of developing venous thromboembolism is higher, particularly in tall women.  Shorter women were 70 percent less likely to develop venous thromboembolism than women who were 6 foot 1 inches tall. Dr. Zoller said that this was a new finding, since women have not been widely studied.

The doctors surmised because taller individuals have longer legs that they may be at higher risks for clots because the blood is struggling more against gravity to flow back to the heart.  When the blood is not flowing a clot will form.  The slower the flow of the blood, it is more likely that the blood will clot.

Source: “Tall men and women more likely to suffer deadly blood clots,” by American Heart News (heart.org)

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