Objective: To compare the effects of height, leg and trunk length on pulse pressure (PP), systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in men and women.
Design: Prospective, population-based, birth cohort study.
Setting: England, Scotland and Wales.
Participants: A total of 1472 men and 1563 women aged 53 years and followed since their birth in 1946.
Main outcome measures: PP, SBP and DBP at age 53 years.
Results: PP increased linearly with decreasing height and leg length in men and women [shortest compared with the tallest height (leg length) group, men 54.6 versus 51.0 mmHg (55.8 versus 50.7 mmHg), women 52.9 versus 48.4 mmHg (53.3 versus 48.6 mmHg); P for trend < or = 0.001 in each case]. Adjustment for adult confounding factors and childhood social class or birth weight only slightly weakened these results (P for trend < or = 0.01 in each case). SBP, but not DBP, showed similar but weaker trends in men and women, except for the association with height in men, which lost statistical significance after adjustment. Trunk length was not associated with any outcome measure in men or women.
Conclusions: Short height and leg length are associated with increased PP and SBP, but not DBP, in middle-aged men and women. PP is a potential mediator between short height and leg length and increased risk of coronary heart disease. Future studies of the association between shortness and coronary heart disease should consider the role of arterial hemodynamics.