Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women's Hospital Medical University, Boston, have found by chance that men over 6ft 1in had their risk of a heart attack reduced by a third compared with those who were 5ft 7in or less.
They found that risk reduced with increasing height so that for every 'extra' inch of height men had a 2 or 3 per cent lower risk.
The study involved 22,000 male physicians taking part in a research programme to look at the effects of taking aspirin and the food supplement beta-carotene, a derivative of Vitamin A, on cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
The study, which is supported by the US government-backed National Institutes of Health took place over five years and involved doctors aged 40 to 84. The study took account of the men's beta-carotene and aspirin intake and other risk factors for heart disease like weight, and blood-fat levels.
Dr Patricia Hebert, the lead researcher on the study, said the findings do not give tall men 'carte blanche to engage in unhealthy lifestyles'.
'Six footers still need to avoid smoking, eat properly, exercise regularly and watch their blood pressure just as everyone should to lower cardiac risk. But our finding on the association between heart attack and height is, nevertheless, important,' she said.
They are not certain why height seems to lessen the likelihood of a heart attack. They suggest that tallness itself may be a marker for some other factor which directly affects the performance of the heart, possibly lung function. Another theory is that stunting of foetal or infant growth, affecting height, may also influence heart performance.
No link was found between height and susceptibility to strokes.