Stroke in women: height loss with age doubles the risk

Gradual loss of height is normal in both men and women. It begins around 19 years and accelerates from approximately 60 years. A study that followed northern European women found that considerable height loss in middle age is associated with a more than doubled risk of dying from stroke. The authors suggest physicians use height loss in early and middle adulthood to identify women at high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including stroke. The results suggest that regular physical activity can help prevent the early onset of height loss.

The causes of height loss with age are as follows:

– narrowing of the discs between the vertebrae of the spine

– compression fractures of the spine due to osteoporosis (loss of bone density)

– changes in posture due to aging.

– Height loss accelerates from 60 about years old.

Research suggests that people who lose a lot of height are more likely to have low bone mineral density, spinal fractures and vitamin D deficiency. Interestingly, people who live at higher latitudes are more prone to osteoporotic fractures, possibly due to less sun exposure. Skin needs sunlight to make vitamin D, which helps build strong bones.

Studies have shown that rapid height loss, in mixed cohorts of men and women, is associated with a higher overall mortality rate and an increased risk of CVD.

There appears to be a link between cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. The physiological mechanism behind this link was unclear. Proposed causes are frailty and decreased endurance as a marker of CVD risk. Indeed, a low level of physical activity increases the risk of CVD, osteoporosis and muscle weakness, which leads to falls and disabilities.

Height loss in middle age: 2 cm lost and it’s 2 times more likely to have a stroke

So far, most studies on the links between the loss height and cardiovascular disease have focused on older people, and none have focused exclusively on women. This is surprising, given that women tend to lose more height than men and are more likely to develop osteoporosis. To fill this knowledge gap, scientists at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, set out to determine whether loss of height in middle age was linked to an increased risk of overall mortality and cardiovascular mortality in women. They analyzed data from two studies that tracked women’s health in Denmark and Sweden over several decades.

Even after accounting for other factors that influence CVD risk , such as weight, smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and education, they found that the mortality risks associated with height loss were unusually high. They associated each centimeter (cm) of lost height with an increased risk of 14% and 21 % of deaths from all causes in the Swedish and Danish cohorts, respectively. When the researchers combined data from the two cohorts, they found that significant height loss, which they defined as greater than 2 cm, was associated with more than twice the risk of stroke. Importantly, their analysis helps confirm other research that suggests that regular physical activity may prevent height loss in women after menopause.

The authors conclude: “ These results suggest the need for increased attention to height loss to identify individuals at increased risk for CVD. Additionally, regular physical activity may be beneficial not only in preventing CVD but also in preventing height loss, thus contributing to CVD prevention. »

How the study worked

The study involved 1 147 women in Sweden, who were part of the Gothenburg Female Population Prospective Study, and of 1 259 women in Denmark, who were part from the MONICATrusted Source study (MONItoring trends and determinants of CArdiovascular disease). The researchers measured the height of the participants at the start of the studies, when they were between 30 and 60 years, then again to 13 years later. Participants lost an average of 0.8 cm during this period, but the loss was highly variable, from 0 to 14 cm. During the to 19 years followed the second height measurement, the researchers recorded the deaths among the participants and their possible causes. After adjusting for other contributing factors, such as lifestyle, people who lost more than 2 cm from their original height had 2,31 times more likely to die from a stroke and 2,14 times more likely to die from a any type of cardiovascular disease. The authors state that, to their knowledge, this is the first study to establish a link between height loss and stroke mortality.

Bones and vessels

Researchers believe that height loss and CVD are linked by the relationship between bone loss, or osteoporosis, and CVD. They are based on a review of research that has shown a link between low bone mineral density, fractures and later CVD risk. There is a surprisingly close relationship between bone loss and a process called vascular calcification (trusted source), which is the buildup of calcium in blood vessels. Both processes involve inflammation and oxidative stress.

In the new study, the researchers indicate that osteoporosis may explain the link between loss of height and increased risk of CVD. indeed, low bone mineral density and osteoporosis could certainly explain some of the height loss. Furthermore, the literature suggests links between bone loss and CVD through common causes, such as inflammation and oxidative stress. Height measurement could provide a quick and easy early warning sign of increased CVD risk in female patients.

For researchers, height should be added, but not substituted, for a CVD risk assessment that includes weight, blood pressure, and laboratory tests for cholesterol and glucose.

Study Limitations

The authors of the new study point out that their research has some limitations. In particular, they write that the number of deaths from stroke was relatively low, so people should interpret these results with some caution. Additionally, they say they cannot rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors influenced their results, such as physical activity and smoking early in life, other illnesses and medical treatments. . However, the study suggests that paying more attention to height loss, especially in women, could help healthcare professionals identify those at increased risk of CVD.

Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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