Health And Wellness

Why Tall People Are More Likely To Die Early

Photo: Mike_shots  / Shutterstock
man measuring his height

Have you always been taller than all of your friends? If so, you’re probably the one in your friend group who always had to get things off the top shelf.

And, according to science, you may be the first one in your friend group to face a long sleep.

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Sound scary? Don’t freak out. Not all tall people die early, but there is plenty of science to back up the fact that those who are taller than normal sometimes suffer from height-related complications that ultimately lead to their deaths.

This is where Gigantism and Acromegaly come into the picture. Although different diseases, they both start within the pituitary gland.

Children who are afflicted with Gigantism have a pituitary gland that produces too much of the natural growth hormone, causing bones and growth plates to grow, and unusual growth spurts.

Acromegaly is similar, but also extremely rare. This disease occurs in adults, and while it is characterized as producing too much of the growth hormone, it is not associated with height, because growth plates fuse after puberty.

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In both cases, though, the pituitary gland is pressed upon by a benign tumor, which causes extra hormones to be released.

Ever heard of Andre the Giant? Starting from a young age, he developed Gigantism and as he became older, he developed Acromegaly as well. Standing at 7 feet 4 inches, Andre the Giant died at age 46 because of his height.

Despite this early death, both of these diseases are treatable through surgery that removes the benign tumor from the pituitary gland, a medication that stops the production of the growth hormone, and radiation therapy.

In fact, doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center were able to stop the world’s tallest man, Sultan Kosen, from growing by giving him Gamma Knife radiosurgery.

These diseases can be difficult to diagnose, which causes them to go untreated for way too long. Some signs that someone is affected by the disease include large feet and hands, thick lips, and protruding brows.

When it goes undiagnosed for too long, patients can suffer from complications like hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

According to a study about premature death due to Acromegaly, “around 60 percent of acromegalic patients die from cardiovascular disease, 25 percent from respiratory causes, and 15 percent from neoplasias,” or tumors.

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While you may feel that you’re out of the woods now, clear and free of both of these diseases, tall people still tend to suffer.

The research is out there, and it largely points to taller people kicking the bucket early. Cross-country skiers are 6 inches shorter than basketball players and are shown to live seven years longer.

According to another study from the Karolinska Institute and The University of Stockholm, height is a huge risk factor for cancer. The study focused on 5.5 million people in Sweden between 1938 and 1991 and found out that for every 4 inches that people went above the average height, cancer risk increased by 18 percent for women and 11 percent for men.

Being tall actually means that the number of cells in our bodies increases, which makes someone more likely to develop cancer. It also means that organs are larger, which can lead to complications such as respiratory issues, blood clots, heart disease, and sudden death.

If you’ve always loved your height, but find yourself hating it now after reading this, don’t fret. You can’t change how tall you are, but what you can do is take extra good care of your health.

Love your body, love your length, but make sure to keep the complications in mind. Go for frequent checkups, get plenty of exercise and enjoy the view!

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Shannon Ullman is a writer and editor at Healthline. She focuses on relationship, wellness, and lifestyle topics, and has bylines on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, PopSugar, and MSN.