Deep vein blood clots more common in tall, obese men

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man, tall, passenger, airline, cramped, stock, 4x3
Deep vein blood clots - known to pose a threat to long-distance airline travelers - are also a problem for tall, fat men, study shows.

(CBS) Do tall guys get the short end of the stick? When it comes to the risk of developing dangerous blood clots in their deep veins, the answer seems to be yes.

A new study shows that tall, obese men are more than five times more likely than short, normal weight men to develop venous thromboembolism (VTE), a potentially lethal condition marked by blood deep vein blood clots (usually in the legs) and blood clotting in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

For guys who are tall but not fat, the risk of dangerous blood clots is about 2.6 times greater for them, the study showed. The study found that for women, being tall confers no additional risk.

"We believe that we observed the increased risk in tall and normal-weight men, but not women, because most women do not get sufficiently tall," study author Dr. Sigrid K. Braekkan, a researcher at the University of Tromso in Norway, said in a written statement. "The risk may be present in very tall women, but there were too few to investigate this properly."

The study tracked the height and weight of more than 26,000 adults in Tromso. It was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Obesity has long been known to be a risk factor for VTE, as have pregnancy, recent surgery, cigarette smoking, using oral contraceptives, having a family history of the condition, and sitting for an extended period of time - as during a long airplane light.

Why would tall stature also be a risk factor?

"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," Braekkan said.

Given the extra risk, Braekkan said one key to limiting the risk for VTE is to stay slim - especially if you're a tall man.

In the U.S., more than 275,000 people each year are hospitalized with deep vein clots or pulmonary embolism, according to the American Heart Association. Symptoms of the disorders - medical emergencies - include leg pain, tenderness, or swelling. 

Medline Plus has more on deep vein clotting problems.