A decrease in height in middle age turned out to be a marker of an increased risk of early death in women — mainly from cardiovascular diseases, researchers from Sweden and Denmark found. Their article was published in the journal BMJ Open.

After reaching the 50th anniversary, many people begin to decrease in their height. This process accelerates after 70 years. It is often caused by flattening of the vertebral discs, compression fractures of the spine, and curvature of posture. Some new studies call a decrease in height a sign of an increased risk of early death from cardiovascular diseases. However, the effect of reduced growth on women’s health has not been sufficiently studied.

Experts from the Universities of Gothenburg and Copenhagen decided to find out whether it is possible to predict the mortality of patients by reducing growth. The researchers observed 2,406 Swedish and Danish women who were born from 1908 to 1952 and took part in longitudinal studies in both countries. The growth was measured twice: the first time, when the women were from 30 to 60 years old, and the second time — 10-13 years after that. On average, women lost 0.8 centimeters in height, but the spread was significant — from 0 to 14 centimeters.

The date and cause of death were tracked 17-19 years after the second measurement. During 19 years of monitoring, 625 women died. 157 of them died from cardiovascular diseases, 37 of this number – from strokes. Every centimeter of lost height was associated with an increased risk of death — by 14 percent in Swedish women and 21 percent in Danish women. A serious loss in height — more than two centimeters-increased the risk of death by 74 and 80 percent, respectively. A cumulative analysis of the data showed that a serious decrease in height was associated with an almost twofold increase in the risk of death from stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

Scientists emphasize that this study was observational and did not set out to determine the cause of deaths. They could also be affected by unaccounted factors — physical activity at a previous stage of life, tobacco smoking, and so on.