Tall, obese men at higher risk for deadly blood clots
April 29th, 2011
12:07 PM ET

Tall, obese men at higher risk for deadly blood clots

Tall men who are obese may be putting themselves at greater risk for developing deadly blood clots. The finding was published Thursday in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Why are blood clots a concern? This study looked at a condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE). When a blood clot forms in a vein deep in the body, usually in the legs, it’s called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  Blood clots can block blood flow, causing pain and swelling. If the clot breaks off, travels through the blood and lodges in the blood vessels of the lungs, it's called pulmonary embolism. When DVTs and pulmonary embolism occur together, the condition is called VTE.

These researchers were looking at how weight and height affect the chance of developing VTE. VTE is the third most common cardiovascular disease in the U.S. according to the study.

Using data from a large long-term Norwegian study that included 26,714 men and women, aged 25 to 97, researchers collected height and weight measurements and followed participants for an average of 12.5 years.  During the study period 461 VTEs occurred.

The researchers found VTE’s were 5.28 times higher in tall obese men who are almost 6 feet or taller compared to short (5’8” or shorter) men of normal weight. Tall men of normal weight were 2.57 times more likely to have VTE. Short obese men had 2.11 times higher risk of VTE.

Results were less marked for women: Obese tall women (5’6” or taller) had 2.77 times higher risk for VTE compared to short (5’2” or shorter) women of normal weight. VTE rates were 1.83 times higher in short obese women. Women who were tall and normal weight showed no increase in risk, but the authors note that their sample lacked many tall women.

Previous research has shown obesity is a risk factor for blood clots.  However, this study suggests height may also play a role.  “In tall people the blood must be pumped a longer distance by the calf-muscle pump, which may cause reduced flow in the legs and thereby raise the risk of clotting,” explained senior study author Sigrid K. Braekkan of the University of Tromso in Norway in a written statement.

Established risk factors for DVT include obesity, smoking, using birth control pills or hormones, recent surgery, sitting for long periods when traveling, and carrying the gene for an inherited clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden.

While some risk factors cannot be changed, maintaining a normal weight, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising are all behaviors that can be practiced to lower risks for cardiovascular disease.

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Dr. Percent

    So a little more than 1% of the participants experienced a VTE. So this really isn't a link or a cause. Correlation does not mean causation.

    April 29, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laya Johnson

      But ii think its still dangerous to any one.

      April 29, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
    • Real Dr.

      Seriously? Go back to college and retake basic research principles.

      May 1, 2011 at 11:48 | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      Dr. Percent, you're a know-it-all, aren't you?

      May 1, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  2. Laya Johnson

    wow is all ii can say because my uncle is tall and obeae but ii think that this is something that everybody needs to know about.!!

    April 29, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Laya Johnson

    ii think that this something that needs to go world wide. Its something that ii think should be put out there for others to know. ii also think that many people at risk of this should come aware of it by there doctors.

    April 29, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. So Cal Jogger

    Please give me a break. I am just coming off a divorce. I'm 6-2 237 down from 265 in January. Did I half Marathon in Late Jan. I know I should be a shade under 200. Marriage can be a major stressor also. I was about 180 when I got married 29 years ago. Yes, Im headed to the gym now. Thanks- guilt has always been a motivator.

    April 29, 2011 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • verch

      If I were you I wouldn't remarry. Married men exercise less than always-single men, divorced men and widowed men.

      May 1, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
    • dtruth

      So Cal, don't listen to this donkey... you have to look at what is more important... living a life potentially filled with a loving, lasting relationship or a long life by yourself. please don't ever live your life based upon what the stats say... you have to do what makes you healthy and happy both physically and emotionally.

      May 1, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • KIM C

      Do not take lightly. While working emergency services- have seen DVT's take multiple lives from 20 to 90years old. Risk factors are something all Medical workers consider.

      May 1, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
  5. yl2012

    Wrong, CNN. Venous thromboembolism is just a blood clot in any vein, NOT the occurrence of both DVT and PE.

    April 29, 2011 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elena

      Actually you are also incorrect. A thrombus is a clot anywhere, when it moves it becomes an embolus. If it ends up specifically in the lungs then it is a pulmonary embolus. So thanks for checking your facts before trying to correct someone else's.

      April 29, 2011 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
  6. johng

    My god, maybe I need to work on changing my height since it's a risk factor! Easier to shrink than lose weight, right? Just another media hype about a correlational study that has no practical clinical meaning.

    April 29, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The_Aviator

    Do short obese men have a lower blood clot risk?

    April 29, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      If you read the article, yes, short obese men have a lower risk for this than do tall, normal-weight men. I found that kind of surprising.

      May 1, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
  8. bobincal

    None of us can control our height but we can control our weight. Don’t get obese. Keep your BMI below 30.

    April 30, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RSH

    Good. These men are usually boisterous blow-hards whose size has exempted them from humility since childhood. A blood clot now and then will humble them. Plus, they're a strain on our resources (oxygen, food, fuel, etc.).

    April 30, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Catcher

      I'm sure you are just a little girly man trying to compensate ..

      No seriously, all tall men aren't as you say, some of us started as tall skinny geeks.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
  10. Heathen

    Now we have a height epidemic. We had better legislate this. God knows creating jobs and ending the war take a back seat to anything even remotely related to obesity.

    April 30, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Calico

    ACTIVITY level and general cardio health are far more important risk factors than being tall. DVTs form when blood pools in the calf - and the risk factor for that are people working desk jobs all day and then spending evenings on the couch in front of the TV. Ask any nurse or doctor who is treating a patient who is stuck in bed for a few days - doesn't matter how tall they are, they're put on DVT prophactic treatment [blood thinners] because laying still makes blood pool. It's really not rocket science.

    April 30, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Fatty Arbuckle

    Ha! 5'6' 230 lbs. I knew that being short and round would pay off some day!

    April 30, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. jc

    so being tall and fat has risk of health issues.. i'll just stick this in the "no sh!t" pile.

    May 1, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Bob

    Great!!! Another strike against me for being tall...

    May 1, 2011 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jeff Wilkinson

    This study is probably bang on. I'm a tall obese male. I'm six-foot-zero and about 330 pounds. I'm dormant most of the time because I've had brain surgery. Recently, deep bruises formed on my legs. Doctors did a scan for blood clots and although they found none, my family doctor told me to get more active, eat a more balanced low-fat diet and wear prescription compression stockings. The plan seems to be working. In just over two weeks, the scars on my ankles are starting to fade. But I know I must lose weight. Maybe this study will send a message to others to do the same.

    May 2, 2011 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Julie Labrouste, Tacoma WA

    There's also a genetic blood disorder called Factor V Leiden that 5% of all North Americans have, but medical science has yet to decide that it's important enough to insist that people be tested for this BEFORE they have a blood clot related event like a deep vein thrombosis, or stroke, or pulmonary embolism, or cerebral embolism, which can kill INSTANTLY. The first I ever heard of this is when I had a deep vein thrombosis and I was stunned that the health "care" industry just WAITS for people to actually suffer what could be DYING suddenly rather than actually TESTING people, or babies for that matter, to determine if they have this deadly disorder. This seems pretty stupid and negligent, but they still don't test for this until an event actually occurs.

    May 2, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Deb

    My brother died of a blood clot at 45. He was tall, 6'6 but not overweight.

    May 2, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. billy bob

    your mom died of a blood clot

    May 5, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Sexual abuse in the church isn't just about preists and children. It isn't just about clergy. Remember, it doesn't have to be illegal to be abusive. It doesn't have to leave physical scars or bruises. But it's impolite to talk about, so we either pretend it isn't there or are honestly unaware. ;(

    November 16, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Dizzyd

    Sure, scare more ppl over to Jenny Craig. 'Cuz being fat is the cause of EVERY disease out there – inc. the common cold and schizophrenia. Not to mention the cause of global warming, Al Qaida's hatred of us, and man being driven out of the garden of Eden. Gets a little old...
    esp. when diets have been shown to not be very effective. Don't believe me? Ask yourself why there's a new 'miracle' diet coming out every week in magazines. But hey! Gotta keep ppl panicking, keep the diet industry raking in the profits off of ppl's self-hatred and vanity, all in the name of 'health'. I seriously doubt a teenage girl calling herself 'fat' 'cuz she now wears a size THREE qualifies as 'healthy'.

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