Is being short a liability in matters of the heart? For men - but not women - the answer emerging from doctors seems to be yes.

Two new studies from Rhode Island and Germany found the shorter men are, the greater their risk of heart trouble and high blood pressure.None of this means heart disease is inevitable, no matter how diminutive someone is. However, especially short folks probably should make extra sure they do whatever else they can to reduce their risk.

"Short people need to look at their other risk factors, such as weight and blood pressure. The height they can't do anything about," said Dr. Donna Parker of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket.

Her study - a cross-section of 6,589 Rhode Islanders - looked at how everyone else compared with those who stood between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-8.

Those under 5-foot-5 had a risk of heart disease that was double that of these moderate-size men, while men over 5-foot-10 had a risk that was 60 percent lower.

Just why this might be is unclear, but there are theories. Among them:

-While genes clearly play a part in height, being short may also be a sign of poor nutrition in childhood, and this might somehow affect the heart later in life.

-Small people have especially tiny blood vessels that are more prone to getting clogged with fatty buildups, the underlying cause of heart attacks.

Also unclear is why this should be so in men but not women.