The Connection Between Your Height And Blood Clots In Veins

Photo credit: bigstockphoto.com

Ever wondered if the aspects of our bodies are connected in some way to what is happening inside them? Well, science is indeed interesting — it gives us new knowledge on how our bodies work. The latest discovery is that a person’s height is directly connected to his or her body’s ability to develop blood clots. In other words, the taller a person is, the higher the chances of developing blood clots in the veins, a phenomenon known as venous thromboembolism. This breakthrough was discovered after a study has been conducted on more than two million Swedish siblings.

Venous blood clots are clots that start in a person’s veins. Venous blood clot is actually third on the list of leading blood vessel problems next to heart attack and stroke. It affects around 600,000 Americans each year. Blood cuts help to stop person from bleeding to death. When a person has a cut or wound, their platelets, a type of blood cell, together with the proteins found in plasma, work to stop the bleeding by forming a clot over the injury. Naturally, the body will dissolve the blood clot on its own after the injury has healed. However, it becomes dangerous when the blood clot hinders the blood flow through an artery or vein. When blood clots block other parts of the body, like in the case of pulmonary embolism, the effect is life threatening. The scariest part of the blood clot is that when it causes death, the effects are almost too instant to be prepared for. According to statistics, there are around 60,000 to 100,000 deaths caused by blood clots in the United States.

The researchers first identified siblings with different heights using the Swedish Multi-Generation Register. These siblings did not have a venous blood clot when the study began. The study ran for 30-40  years, and researchers looked at who had a blood clot during the period. They found that:

  1. The risk for blood clots was 69 percent lower for women who are shorter than 5’1”, compared to women with a height of 6 feet and taller.
  2. The risk for blood clots was 65 percent lower for men who are shorter than 5’3”, compared to men, who are 6’2” and taller.

For men, the risk was found prominently for pulmonary embolism, as well as in other body parts. On the other hand, for women, only the risk of blood clots in the legs was significantly associated with height. By including siblings, the researchers were also be able to look for genetic factors which could also increase the chances of a person developing blood clots. With large sample sizes and good research methodology, the study has a very solid back to support its findings. One expert has weighed in and said that there maybe a reason behind such finding, in that, “the blood has to travel up a vein against gravity, and when there is a longer distance to travel, there is more opportunity for the blood to clot abnormally.”

The study, however, has some limitations. For instance, it did not take into account other factors, such as dietary habits, smoking, and physical activity — these can also affect a person’s risk for venous blood clots. The study also cannot be conclusively applied to other nationalities as the sample sizes are all from Sweden.

In addition to understanding the factors behind blood clots, it is also necessary for a person to know that that the symptoms of blood clots depend on the location of the clot. When it is in the heart, the symptoms are usually sweating, light-headedness, nausea, shortness of breathing, chest pains, and discomfort in other areas of the body. For blood clots found in the brain, common symptoms are vision problems, sudden and painful headache, dizziness, difficulty speaking, and weakness in certain areas of the body, like the face or arms or legs. If the clot is in an arm or leg, one would usually feel sudden or gradual pain, warmth, tenderness, and swelling in those areas. Lung blood clots, considered the deadly ones, have symptoms such as racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, sharp chest pain, fever, and coughing up blood. Lastly, blood clots in the abdomen usually manifest in the form of diarrhea, pain, or vomiting.

Because of the suddenness in the effects of blood clots, one must be very careful and diligent in doing things to prevent them from forming in the first place. The good news is that blood clots are actually one of the most preventable types of blood conditions. There are many ways to decrease the chances of developing a blood clot. It is actually just about controlling the risk factors when possible. First, assess yourself in aspects like genetics or external factors. When you think that your heredity or your behavior will most likely result in blood clot formation, it is best to talk to your physician immediately. Make sure the physician knows all the medications you are currently taking and any family history of blood clotting disorders.

 

References:

www.newsroom.heart.org