6 Ways Being Tall Impacts Your Health
From heart disease to a high IQ, being vertically gifted affects your health in a slew of different ways
By Macaela MacKenzie
When you were a kid, being vertically gifted when everyone else was still a shrimp got you called a bean pole on the playground. Luckily, as an adult, it likens you to sky-high ladies like Karlie Kloss and Gisele Bundchen. But being tall affects more than just the names you got called and whether you want to wear heels on a date—it actually has an impact on your disease risk and brain health. Check out these six ways having legs for days impacts your well-being.
1. You could be at an increased risk of cancer. A new study from Sweden found that the taller you are, the higher your risk for cancer is. In fact, researchers discovered that if two people have the exact same risk for cancer (based on genetics and lifestyle), the taller person is 18 percent more likely to develop cancer for every 10 centimeters (roughly four inches) they have on their friend. Additionally, leggy ladies were 30 percent more likely to develop skin cancer and 20 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Whoa! Researchers, haven't identified why extra inches could lead to the extra risk, but their best guess is that the more cells and tissue you have, the more likely it is that some of those cells will develop abnormally and become cancerous.
Besides breast and skin cancer, tall women also have a slightly heightened risk of ovarian cancer (about three percent). Even though this is slight, ovarian cancer is a silent killer, so tall ladies need to be extra good about regular ob-gyn appointments (find out Why No One Is Talking About Ovarian Cancer).
2. Height does your heart good and bad. According to a 2014 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, taller people have a increased risk of certain heart issues like atrial fibrillation and valve disease. However, the researchers also found that other conditions like congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease are actually less common for those with a higher reach. What gives? The hypothesis is two fold: For the perks, researchers think smaller people have smaller valves that may simply clog more easily. In cases where height hinders heart health, though, scientists are currently looking at growth hormones for an explanation. One guess is that a hormone that makes people statuesque also makes them susceptible to heart problems.
3. Tall ladies tend to live shorter lives. According to research from the University of Hawai'i, there's a certain gene, dubbed "the longevity gene," that not only lengthens your lifespan but also shortens your stature. Unfortunately, the taller you are, the shorter you're likely to live. And the reverse is true for short folks—those below 5 foot 2 inches lived the longest.
4. Vertical inches could slash diabetes risk. A meta analysis of 18 studiespublished by the journal Obesity Reviews found the taller a woman is, the less likely she is to develop type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, the correlation didn't hold true for men who had a similar risk no matter their height, although researchers aren't quite sure why. (No matter your stature, keep an eye out for these 7 Silent Symptoms of Pre-Diabetes.)
5. Dementia could be more common in short gals. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that women who were 5-foot-1 had a 35 percent higher risk of dementia than ladies who were 5-foot-4 or above. Pardon the pun, but that's pretty mind-blowing. So what's the deal with dementia and size? According to the researchers, being super short cane sometimes be the product of developmental difficulties in childhood like stress or poor nutrition, which are also risk factors for dementia.
6. The leggy ladies could be smarter. Being tall may have other brain benefits too: According to another University of Edinburgh study, researchers found taller people have slightly higher IQs. Previous research had found not-very-shocking family connections (tall, smart parents tend to produce tall, smart kids) but this is the first study to find the same correlation in people who don't share DNA. Let's hear it for the vertically-gifted gals! (Not vertically gifted? Try these 10 Easy Ways to Get Smarter—Stat.)