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Tall, obese men over 5 times more likely to develop deep vein blood clots

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Deep vein clots

A new report finds a higher risk of developing blood clots in the deep veins, which often occur in the calf muscles, for men who are tall and obese.

Researchers say the reason may be reduced blood flow from taller stature, combined with chronic inflammation and increased abdominal girth from obesity that puts pressure on the lower extremities. Compared to shorter men, tall men who are obese have 5.28 times the chance of deep vein clots, known as venous thromboembolism (VTE).

The risk of clots in the deep veins that are most common in the legs is modifiable with weight control. Remaining active is also important. Clots that form in the lower extremities can travel to the lungs and cause serious health problems from pulmonary embolism that can be fatal.

Obesity increases the risk of the condition in both men and women. For normal weight men, at least 5 feet 11.7 inches tall, the risk of deep vein blood clots is still 2.57 times higher than men 5’7” or less.

The findings, published in “Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association”, come from the Tromsø study, which analyzed data among 26,714 Norwegian men and women, age 25 to 97. Over a period of 12.5 years, researchers found 461 venous thrombembolisms, linked to obesity and height.

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Obesity in women was also found to increase the chances of VTE. For tall women the chance of deep vein clot is 2.77 times higher, compared to women 5 feet 2.6inches or less. Tall, normal weight women were not found to be at risk.

Sigrid K. Braekkan, Ph.D., senior study author and a researcher in the Hematological Research Group at the University of Tromsø in Norway said, “The risk may be present in very tall women, but there were too few to investigate this properly.”

The findings, say the researchers, mean clinicians should consider men with tall stature and obese at risk for developing dangerous blood clots in the deep veins of the leg that can be deadly if they travel to the lungs.

The investigators suspect the reason tall obese men are at higher risk for deep vein blood clots comes from combination of factors. They suggest more research to discover the exact reasons for the study findings.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol, published online 28 April 2011
"Joint Effects of Obesity and Body Height on the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism: The Tromsø Study."
Knut H. Borch, Cecilie Nyegaard, John-Bjarne Hansen, Ellisiv B. Mathiesen, Inger Njølstad, Tom Wilsgaard, and Sigrid K. Brækkan.

Image credit: Morguefile