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Height linked to dementia death risk

Height linked to dementia death risk
Photo: Height linked to dementia death risk
Men under 1.68m in height are 50 per cent more likely to suffer death from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than those taller than 1.78m.

Being short increases a person's chances of dying from dementia, new research has shown.

Men less than 1.68m in height are 50 per cent more likely to suffer death from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than those taller than 1.78m.

Women are less at risk, but those shorter than 1.55m are still 35 per cent more likely to have their lives ended by the disease than those taller than 1.65m.

Scientists analysed findings from 18 studies with more than 180,000 participants, comparing the risk of dying from dementia for the tallest and shortest men and women.

They stressed there was no evidence that lack of height triggered the brain-deteriorating condition, the most common form of which is Alzheimer's.

But height could be a marker of other factors that might influence dementia risk.

Senior author Dr David Batty, of University College London, said: "Short height in itself of course does not 'cause' dementia. Rather, height captures a number of early life factors, including early-life illness, adversity, poor nutrition and psychosocial stress, and so allows us to examine the effect of these factors on dementia more closely."

Study leader Dr Tom Russ, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "The association between height and dementia death remained when we took into account early life or adult socioeconomic status and other relevant factors, including obesity, smoking, cardiovascular disease risk factors and longstanding illness."

In the British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers called for continuing public health policies "on a broad front" to improve early-life conditions, taking into account preschool education, parenting schemes and vaccination programs.

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are thought to be suffering from dementia, 60 per cent of whom have Alzheimer's.

Copyright AAP 2014.

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