Height declines with age, but the impact of height loss on health outcomes has been little studied. We examined the relationships between height loss over 20 years (starting at middle age) and subsequent total mortality and incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke in older men.
A prospective study was performed on 4213 men whose height was measured between the ages of 40 and 59 years and again 20 years later between the ages of 60 and 79 years. The men were then followed up for a mean period of 6 years, during which 760 deaths occurred.
Height loss correlated significantly with initial age (r = 0.20) and weight loss (r = 0.20). Total mortality risk was higher in men with a height loss of 3 cm or more than in men with a height loss of less than 1 cm (age-adjusted relative risk [RR], 1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.33-2.03). The excess deaths were largely attributable to cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and other causes but not to cancer. Adjustment for age, established cardiovascular risk factors, lung function, preexisting cardiovascular disease, albumin concentration, self-reported poor or fair health, and weight loss had a modest impact on the increased risk of total mortality (RR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.15-1.82). The risk of major coronary heart disease events was increased only in men with a height loss of 3 cm or more even after adjustment (adjusted RR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.02-1.98; ≥3.0 cm vs <3.0 cm); no association was seen with stroke risk.
Marked height loss (≥3 cm) in older men is independently associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and coronary heart disease.