Dr. Kate Tilling of the University of Bristol in the UK and colleagues conducted a study analysing data from 12,254 men and women aged between 44 to 65, and found a direct association between leg length and intimal-medial thickness (IMT), which is the measurement of the thickness of blood vessel walls that is used to detect the early stages of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
The researchers found that people with longer legs, had thinner their carotid artery walls and this meant a much lesser build up of deposits within these blood vessels and hence a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Tilling and her team also mentioned in their article in the American Journal of Epidemiology that the leg length is strongly affected by factors very early in life. The studies for example had linked breastfeeding, high-energy diets at the ages of two and four years, and comfortable childhood circumstances to longer leg length.
In order to observe whether the leg length might also be related to early signs of heart and blood vessel disease, which would in turn bear a connection between early factors of life and heart attack and stroke risk, the researchers compared leg length to IMT of the carotid artery in a group of men and women who took part in a in a large scale study about the risk of arteriosclerosis.
Estimating the leg length by subtracting a person's height in a seated position from their total height, the researchers found that the leg length was directly linked to IMT. They also noticed that this relationship was even stronger for black men and weakest for black women.
Tilling and her colleagues concluded that their study now provides support for theories on the various factors in early childhood, like breastfeeding and childhood nutrition that are associated with an increased prepubertal linear growth, might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.