Re­cent study finds tall peo­ple more likely to de­velop blood clots

The Sentinel-Record - - LIFESTYLES - Copy­right 2018, Uni­ver­sal UClick for UFS Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your ques­tions to ask­the­do­cto

Dear Doc­tor: Our un­cle, who is 44, re­cently got di­ag­nosed with a blood clot in his leg, and it was a med­i­cal emer­gency. Our mom (she’s his older sis­ter) is a nurse and says that be­cause he’s so tall — 6-foot-4 — his risk is higher. Is that re­ally true? I thought that it de­pended more on weight than height.

Dear Reader: Ku­dos to your mother, who is up on the lat­est re­search. Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished last year in the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s jour­nal Cir­cu­la­tion: Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Ge­net­ics, sci­en­tists in Swe­den have iden­ti­fied a po­ten­tial re­la­tion­ship be­tween some­one’s height and their risk of de­vel­op­ing a blood clot.

In the study, men un­der 5 feet 3 inches were found to be

65 per­cent less likely than men taller than 6 feet

2 inches to de­velop a ve­nous blood clot. In women, the like­li­hood of a blood clot was 69 per­cent lower in in­di­vid­u­als shorter than 5 feet 1 inch than in those who were 6 feet or taller. For the taller men in the study, height was linked to blood clots in the lungs, legs and other lo­ca­tions. For women, be­ing tall in­creased the risk of blood clots only in the legs.

These con­clu­sions are drawn from an anal­y­sis of med­i­cal data col­lected from — and this is an in­ter­est­ing twist — more than 2.5 mil­lion adult sib­lings in a na­tional reg­istry. The study pe­riod ranged from 30 to 40 years, and sib­lings were used to help ac­count for any po­ten­tial ge­netic fac­tors in the re­sults. None of the sub­jects had ve­nous blood clots at the start of the study pe­riod.

The abil­ity of blood to clot, or co­ag­u­late, is cru­cial to our sur­vival. When an in­jury oc­curs, fac­tors present in our blood and plasma work to­gether to form the clot, which slows or stops the flow of blood at the site. As the in­jury heals, the clot dis­solves. How­ever, blood clots can form within blood ves­sels ab­sent of in­jury or trauma, and they can per­sist. The dan­ger is that they can re­strict blood flow.

Blood clots can also sep­a­rate from their point of ori­gin and travel through the heart and to lungs, where they be­come life-threat­en­ing. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Control and Preven­tion, be­tween 60,000 and 100,000 deaths per year are at­trib­ut­able to blood clots.

You’re cor­rect that be­ing over­weight or obese is a risk fac­tor in de­vel­op­ing a blood clot. So are smok­ing, preg­nancy, be­ing im­mo­bile for long stretches of time, hav­ing high blood pres­sure or high choles­terol, and fam­ily his­tory, to name just a few. Al­though you can’t stop be­ing tall, you can take steps to re­duce blood-clot risk.

The first three — lose weight, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and stop smok­ing — not only lower blood clot risk, they con­trib­ute to health and well-be­ing in gen­eral. Air travel, desk work, bed rest and med­i­cal re­cov­ery can mean sit­ting still for hours at a time. Mit­i­gate this by walk­ing, stretch­ing and flex­ing your leg mus­cles at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. And if you do find your­self seated for a long while, avoid cross­ing your legs, which can im­pede blood flow.

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