Short kids grow up to have a higher risk of stroke, according to a study of more than 310,000 Danish schoolchildren with up to eight decades of follow-up.
In the prospective study, researchers examined the children’s measurements at ages 7, 10 and 13. Girls and boys who were 2 to 3 inches shorter than average for their age went on to have increased ischemic stroke (IS) risks of 11 and 10 percent, respectively, in adulthood. Shorter height was associated with a similar risk of intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) in men (11 percent increase) but not in women.
“Our results primarily have implications for understanding disease pathogenesis rather than for clinical risk prediction,” senior study author Jennifer L. Baker, PhD, and colleagues wrote in Stroke. “Attained adult height is an indicator of growth conditions during childhood, timing of puberty, and genetic height potential.
“Although we found strong inverse associations between height already at 7 years and IS in both sexes, as well as with ICH in men, we observed limited indications of childhood growth being associated with these 2 stroke subtypes. This suggests that the main effects of height on stroke are initiated before 7 years, already well before entering puberty.”
Potential non-genetic factors that could influence height early on include maternal diet during pregnancy, childhood diet, infection and physiological stress, according to the American Heart Association. All these factors may affect stroke risk, but some can be improved.
“Our study suggests that short height in children is a possible marker of stroke risk and suggests these children should pay extra attention to changing or treating modifiable risk factors for stroke throughout life to reduce the chances of having this disease,” Baker said in a press release.
The study population was born from 1930 to 1989, and Baker et al. followed stroke outcomes through 2013 by linking individuals to nationwide Danish health registries.
The researchers noted they didn’t have information on adult heights, so they were unable to determine its impact on stroke risk in relation to childhood height.