Small comfort for all the short and tall women out there: There isn't a perfect height for your health. Turns out, extra inches lower your risk of some common health problems, but increase the odds of others. Sigh. Here's the long and short of it:
When Short is Sweet
You're not as cancer-prone. Melanoma, thyroid, kidney, breast, colon, and rectum cancers, in particular, are strongly associated with height. Over a series of studies, it is found that women who are 5'10" are about 30 to 40% more likely to develop these types of cancer than women who are 5'2". Taller women tend to have larger organs and more cells, so the chance of developing mutations that lead to cancer is greater. It's also possible that the hormones and growth factors that influence height also affect cancer risk.
Your chance of blood clots dwindles. If you're 5'2" or under and your weight is normal or close to it, you're three times less likely to get a blood clot. Blood must be pumped a longer distance in taller women, which may lead to reduced flow and the increased risk for a stroke-causing clot. While you can't change your height, dropping a few pounds will help: Tall women without a weight problem had no increased risk of clots.
You might still be going strong at 90. One of the genes linked to longevity is also responsible for short stature. Scientists found that a gene mutation impedes insulin-like growth factor from doing its job also seems to extend lifespan.
When Tall is Tops
Your heart is safer. Women who are 5'8" are 28% less likely to develop heart disease than those who are 5'3", according to a study. In fact, for every two-and-a-half inches taller you are than someone else of the same gender, the researchers found that your risk of heart disease diminishes by about 14%. What gives? The genes associated with being short also increase the risk of high LDL cholesterol levels.
Your mind will stay strong. A women who is 5'7" is about 50% less likely to die from dementia than one who is 5'1". Scientists believe the factors that contribute to smaller stature—childhood illnesses, stress, and poor nutrition—are at the root of the increased risk rather than genetics.
Pregnancy and childbirth won't be as tough. Moms-to-be who are 5'6" are 18 to 59% less likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who are 5'2". Researchers aren't sure why, but they speculate that the genes related to height have an effect on glucose tolerance. More good news for average size or tall women with a bump: a study concluded that being 5'1" or taller reduces your risk for a C-section.
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