Does Height Play a Role in Developing Blood Clots?

Height may be a contributing factor to developing blood clots.

A new study from Sweden published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation suggests that taller people have an increased risk of developing venous thromboembolism, or blood clots in the veins.

The study analyzed information from over 2 million Swedish siblings.

Is Height a Factor?

Researchers found that males shorter than 5 feet 3 inches had a 65 percent lower risk for the condition than men 6 feet 2 inches or taller.

Women who were shorter than 5 feet 1 inch had a 69 percent lower risk for venous blood clots compared to their counterparts 6 feet or taller.

One theory the researchers had regarding the development of the condition was that the leg veins of taller people experienced increased gravitational pressure, which can slow or stop blood flood. Another theory is that taller people simply have longer veins and more area for clots and circulation issues to develop.

“Height is not a factor in venous thromboembolism that medical treatments can change, but more research into the connections between height and blood clots may give doctors and researchers an idea of who develops blood clots and why,” said Dr. Michael Budler.

Budler is an interventional radiologist in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Causes of Clots

Other causes of venous thromboembolism include extended periods of immobilization or hospitalization, sedentary lifestyle, inherited blood-clotting disorders and cancer.

Women are especially at risk of developing venous thromboembolism if they are pregnant, use oral contraceptives or take hormone-replacement therapy during and after menopause.

Blood clots can also develop in the arteries. Contributors to developing arterial blood clots include smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Some heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation also contribute to an increased risk of blood clots in the arteries.

Complications of Blood Clots

Wherever they develop, blood clots are dangerous, especially for people with peripheral artery disease.

“Blood clots can lead to heart attack, stroke and even death, and when combined with a condition like PAD, the risk of a serious event is even higher,” Budler said.

PAD is a condition that develops when fatty deposits, cholesterol and calcium build up on the walls of the arteries, narrowing them and affecting blood flow to the extremities, head and neck.

“When an artery narrows from arterial plaque, the space that blood has to flow is reduced. A blood clot could become stuck in the narrowed space and halt blood flow,” Budler said.

When blood flow stops, a heart attack or stroke can occur as a result of a lack of oxygen. Tissues may be irreversibly damaged, and patients may suffer lifelong repercussions. 

In addition to the increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death, people with PAD experience high blood pressure because the heart has to work harder to move blood through the body. Other side effects of PAD include severe cramping, numbness and tingling in the extremities.

Many people with PAD experiences changes in the skin and nails, hair loss and the development of skin ulcers because of a lack of blood and oxygen.

The lack of blood and oxygen to the extremities can also delay healing.

“If a person with PAD cuts themselves while shaving, they may find that the cut takes a very long time to heal or does not heal at all, leaving them susceptible to infection,” Budler said.

Treatments to reduce the risks associated with blood clots and PAD include the angioplasty and vascular mesh stenting procedures to push arterial buildup back against the wall of the affected blood vessels to increase blood flow.



American Heart Association. “Can height increase risk for blood clots in veins?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 September 2017.