Friday, January 4, 2019

For longevity, is it better to be short or tall?

Being short is associated with worse outcomes for critically ill adults.

A large retrospective study of 233,000 men and 184,000 women consecutively admitted to 210 ICUs in the UK over a six-year period found hospital and ICU mortality decreased with increasing height after adjusting for available potential confounders. The difference was statistically significant.

The definition of short or tall was based on the median height of the subjects—175 cm (5’9”) for men and 162 cm (5’2”) for women. These figures are nearly the same as the averages for non-hospitalized adults.

The study had several limitations. Height was measured in just 44.5% of the group while the rest were based on estimates. However, the authors noted the median estimated height was exactly the same as the measured height for men and only 1 cm different for women, and measuring height in critically ill patients is difficult.

The results may not be accurate because of undocumented confounders such as functional status, childhood exposures to radiation or chemotherapy, dosing of medications, size of endotracheal tubes, and tidal volumes in patients on ventilators. The impact of frailty, aging, and disease was also unknown.

Like all retrospective studies, association does not necessarily mean causation. To their credit, the authors concluded that height may be a risk factor for short-term mortality in critically ill patients.

Another recent paper suggests being tall increases cancer risk. Math trigger warning! The paper contains several passages like this:
In 18 of 23 different types of tumors looked at, being tall increased the risk of cancer by about 10% in both men and women. And the risk increased by 10% for every 10 cm increaser in height. This effect is primarily due to tall people having an increase in the total number of cells in their bodies.

Obesity, in which the cells are larger but not more numerous, does not have the same effect as height on cancer risk.

Height did not increase cancer risk in a five types of tumors—pancreas, esophagus, stomach, mouth/pharynx, and cervix. This may be due to the association of these cancers with external factors like infection and carcinogens.

Since I am of average height and, like all of us, getting shorter with age, I’m not sure what to do with the information. Should I buy shoes with thicker soles or let nature take its course?


Robert Ley said...

Paragraph 2: 162cm is about 5'4"

Skeptical Scalpel said...


Thank you for pointing out the error. I have corrected it.

William Reichert said...

The title of your post is misleading. Tall people do not live longer.
Tall people tend to survive hospital and ICU stays better than shorter people. That is not the same as greater longevity over a lifetime.
Short people should be placed on statins as studies show that those who take statins survive ICU stays better than those without statins,.
Regardless, you should let nature take its course. Nature will do this no matter what you decide to do.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

William, that research you cited is from 2013. A lot has changed since then. Just kidding. You are correct. I did not word the title very well.

This type of research reminds me of the studies on whether coffee or alcohol are good for you. You can find a study to support any position you want to take on those topics.

William Reichert said...

As far as I am concerned alcohol is bad for me. It provokes atrial arrhythmias. COFFEE is good. It makes me feel human in the morning. I dont care what studies of average people show. We all are different.
With the advent of genetic knowledge we are soon going to be able to discard the attention paid to studies that study group outcomes and focus on the fact that each of us is an individual. IN time, studying groups will be seen as completely old fashioned and silly.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

William, you may be right. There’s already a diet company advertising they plan individualized diets based on a client’s DNA. I don’t get how it works but hey, the say if you don’t lose weight, they’ll give you your money back.

Unknown said...

I read your article about doctors doing thier own post-op, the one that did an acdf surgery on me didn't do his own pre-op either. Please don't take this site down, it has taken me almost three years to find it.
I have been left with incomplete paralysis, in severe pain, disfigured, with limited mobility and everyone is protecting this doctor and no doctor in this town will help me because I am a complication.

I had gone in about my lumbar spine which this doctor had done surgery on in 2010 for a pinched nerve, so I trusted him. I saw his pa which was the same as with the first surgery. I had taken a fall and hit my lower back because it was bothering me and thought maybe I had better make sure the hardware was in place. I asked the pa if he knew why my neck would make a grinding sound? He said I'll just do an MRI on that too, I was not in pain. It took me three months to get around to getting those MRI's. I was working and was not in pain. The only reason I went back to this doctor is because he had an MRI to compare the new one to. I am sorry I ever checked on my lower back because it ultimetedly costed me my life.

I was 67 years old with severe Osteoperois, trying to quit smoking and had no idea any of this had anything to do with my bones. He used a scare tactic on me when I came back for the results. Once again I saw the ps and he told me he couldn't even discuss my lower back until we take care of my neck because it was serious and that I was in danger of becoming paralyzed. Scared me to death.
I am going to post this as I go along, lost it all the other day and I was almost done.
The medical field is getting worse. Medical records which are considered to be legal documents are incorrect.

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