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Health Team

Tall, obese men have increased risk of blood clots

Posted May 2, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT

Tall, obese men have increased risk of blood clots

Being tall and obese may add up to another health concern by increasing the risk of a fatal blood clot. New research could help heavy tall people decrease this deadly risk.

At 6 feet, 8 inches and 280 pounds, John Kearns is a striking presence, but about six years ago he was almost cut down when he developed a potentially life-threatening blood clot.

“(I) had about eight knee surgeries on that left leg, and they said that might be the reason. They said you're heavy, 280, that may be the reason,” he said.

A new study finds that tall and obese men have an increased risk of blood clotting that can lead to pulmonary embolism. That's when the clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, which can be fatal.

Compared to men of average height and weight, obese tall men have a five times higher risk of blood clots. Tall is defined as 6 feet or taller.

“In taller patients, it takes a longer time for the blood to travel from the bottom of the feet back up to the heart … so the blood is sitting without circulating for long periods of time,” said Dr. Nicholas Morrissey, with New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The study also found that tall women – 5 feet, 6 inches or over – who were also obese had a three times higher risk of blood clots. Just being tall carries an increased risk of blood clots for men.

“In the absence of other risk factors, I would say do not lose any sleep over this,” Morrissey said.

Kearns can't do anything about his height, but he's trying to stay active and keep his weight down, cutting his risk for blood clots.

Just being tall carries an increased risk of blood clots for men. There's no increased risk of blood clots for taller women of normal weight because most women don't get tall enough for it to become an issue.