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Height loss and future coronary heart disease in London: the Whitehall II study


Background Although several plausible biological mechanisms have been advanced for the association between greater physical stature and lower coronary heart disease (CHD) risk in prospective cohort studies, the importance of one of the principal artefactual explanations—reverse causality due to shrinkage—remains unresolved. To explore this issue, studies with repeat measurements of height are required, but, to date, such data have been lacking.

Objective To examine the possible relationship between height loss and future CHD.

Methods Data were analysed from the Whitehall II prospective cohort study of 3802 men and 1615 women who participated in a physical examination in 1985–8, had their height re-measured in 1997–9, and were then followed up for fatal and non-fatal CHD.

Results A mean follow-up of 7.4 years after the second height measurement gave rise to 69 CHD events in men and 18 in women. After adjustment for baseline CHD risk factors, greater loss of physical stature between survey and resurvey was associated with an increased risk of CHD in men (HR; 95% CI for a one SD increase: 1.24; 1.00 to 1.53) but not women (0.93; 0.58 to 1.50).

Conclusions Reverse causality due to shrinkage may contribute to the inverse association between a single measurement of height and later CHD in other studies.

  • Aetiology outcome
  • epidemiology FQ
  • ischaemic heart disease

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