Short adult stature is known to be associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, but the underlying explanatory mechanisms remain largely unknown. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the relationship between height and blood pressure (BP), a major determinant of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
We performed BP measurements including 24-h ambulatory BP measurements in 534 participants (mean age 61 ± 3 years, 51.3% women) from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. None of the study participants had medication affecting vasculature or BP. We assessed the influence of height on CVD risk factors with a standardized z-score representing the difference from the mean value for the whole study cohort.
Daytime SBP, pulse pressure, and mean arterial pressure showed significant inverse associations with height (adjusted for age, leisure-time physical activity, body fat percentage, and smoking). Height was by itself a strong determinant of pulse pressure independently of BMI. In addition, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B concentrations decreased with increasing height.
Shorter individuals have higher BP levels than taller individuals. This may at least partly explain the inverse association between height and CVD. In normal weight and slightly overweight individuals, the relationship between BP and height is independent of BMI and adiposity.