The greatest predictor of heart health and mortality risk? (Hint: It’s not your BMI)

At your annual check-up, your doctor probably gives a lot of attention to your weight and body mass index (BMI).

But there’s another measurement entirely that’s a far better gauge of your overall health than your BMI.

In fact, according to two recent studies, it can tell us MUCH MORE about your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and even dying, in particular!

I’ll reveal what that measurement is in just a moment.

But first, let’s back up to discuss exactly why BMI is such an ineffective diagnostic tool…

Using BMI to gauge health just doesn’t add up

When I first started researching at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the mid-1980s, there was a lot of interest in weight and BMI as risk factors for chronic diseases.

Of course, in my training to become both a Ph.D. anthropologist and an M.D., I learned about (and researched) “anthropometry”—the science of measuring the body. So, I knew there were far better ways to assess health than using only weight and BMI.

But the NIH bureaucrats had little interest in using these state-of-the-art, scientific approaches and methodologies. And they had no interest in recognizing that weight and BMI aren’t the be-all, end-all of health. (Even though some major studies show that carrying a bit of extra weight as you get older PROTECTS you against disease and dying an early death!)

Not to mention, they also basically ignored one important measurement as a MAJOR factor for cardiovascular disease: Height.

Loss of height in adulthood tied to cardiovascular disease and early death

In the first of two new studies, researchers looked at 2,400 women living in Denmark and Sweden born between 1908 and 1952. They measured the women’s height once when they were between the ages 30 and 60 years and again 10 to 13 years later.

After the second height measurement, researchers followed the women for almost 20 years.

Overall, the women lost anywhere between zero to 5.5 inches between the two different height measurements.

But for every 0.4-inch loss of height, there was a 14 percent increased risk of death among Swedish women and a 21 percent increased risk of death among Danish women.

Plus, Swedish women who suffered a height loss of 0.8 inches or greater had a staggering 74 percent higher mortality risk. And Danish women who suffered this type of major height loss had an 80 percent higher mortality risk!

When it came to specific causes of death, women who experienced major height loss of 0.8 inches or more had a:

  • 130 percent higher risk of dying from stroke
  • 214 percent higher risk of dying from any cardiovascular disease event
  • 71 percent higher risk of dying from causes other than cardiovascular disease

But that’s not all. In the second study on men, researchers came to similar conclusions…

For that study, researchers followed about 4,000 men—between the ages of 60 to 79 years at the study’s end—for 20 years. Overall, they found that men who lost 1.2 inches or more of height were at about 64 percent higher risk of DYING from ANY cause compared to men who lost less than 0.4 inches of height. They also had a 42 percent higher risk of suffering a major coronary event, such as a heart attack.

But there’s some good news here…

You CAN help prevent height loss as you grow older

The researchers in the first study noted that moderate physical activity could “contribute significantly” to height loss prevention. And that conclusion makes a lot of sense to me—as we already know that regular, moderate physical activity helps prevent muscle and bone loss. (Following a healthy, balanced diet with adequate protein and nutrients from dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood also helps prevent muscle and bone loss.)

Furthermore, you NEED strong bones and muscles to maintain a healthy gait (your ability to walk strongly and swiftly). And your gait is the single, greatest predictor of longevity (and helps reduce your mortality risk).

That’s why I encourage you to engage in 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise total per week. Research shows this is the optimal amount for improving your health and longevity. And, as I always suggest, aim to get your exercise outside in Nature whenever possible, for some added sun exposure and challenge to your muscles and core balance.

Of course, in addition to exercise, there are dozens of simple, natural strategies for staying vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond. And you can learn all about them in my protocol,The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” For more details about this online learning tool or to enroll today, simply click here now.


“Loss of height predicts total and cardiovascular mortality: a cohort study of northern European women.” BMJ Open 2021;11:e049122. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2021-049122

“Height loss in older men: associations with total mortality and incidence of cardiovascular disease.” Arch Intern Med 2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2546-52.