Although the title of this blog may sound odd, I got the inspiration for this blog after some research that a University of Leicester Professor carried out recently. Professor Sir Nilesh Samani is the Head of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences whose recently published work adds evidence to the idea that shorter people are more likely to develop coronary heart disease. My friend exclaimed upon reading the press release: ‘WHAT ABOUT HOBBITS LIKE ME?!’
Using a genetic approach, Professor Samani found that the association between being shorter and developing heart disease is not due to the confounding factors thought to promote shorter stature (poor socio-economic conditions and nutrition) but is a primary cause of the disease. Analysing 200,000 genetic profiles of those with and without heart disease, researchers found that for every 2.5 inches difference in height, the risk of heart disease changed by 13.5%.
Researchers wanted to identify this because the nature of our DNA is so that it cannot be directly modified by lifestyle or socio-economic status. So if shorter height directly links with coronary heart disease, then the genetic variants responsible for shorter height would be associated with coronary heart disease, which indeed is what the researchers found. Although this research does nothing for clinical methodology in future, it highlights the importance of understanding the molecular biology of these coded traits. As it could be that the variant genotypes responsible for shorter stature may be linked to blood lipid production for example.
Coronary heart disease is a very common condition in the UK, killing 1 person every 7 minutes. It is a common cause of death and caused by the deposition of fatty molecules in the walls of the arteries. This causes the arteries, supplying blood to the heart (coronary arteries) to become narrowed. Build up of fatty molecule forms a plaque, where if a blood clot forms, can cause a complete blockage, and lead to a heart attack.
Now, this is not meant to alarm shorter people, as much as it is implied that doctors should focus on the health of shorter people. The research simply states that genes responsible for height can increase susceptibility to coronary heart disease. If anything, researchers emphasise the point for full understanding of these traits, before emphatically reminding people to eat a healthy diet, not smoke and exercise regularly. Doing these three things will reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, whether you be 5 feet tall or 6. These happen to reflect my friend’s and my heights respectively
I would like to DESPERATELY say to shorter people that living a healthy lifestyle, like everybody else, will reduce the risks of getting coronary heart disease, and that you should not worry about it. I had to calm Sonia down after her Hobbit outbreak too 🙂
In the meantime, I realise that this post wasn’t Microbiology related, but thought it nice to highlight the important work Leicester University carries out, which is really interesting. I will find something gruesomely microscopic to share with you all soon (and I don’t mean influenza, hehehe).