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Why Do People Sometimes Shrink with Age?

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Why Do People Sometimes Shrink with Age?

Have you noticed that your older loved ones don’t stand quite as tall as they used to? It’s not your mind playing tricks on you. In fact, men may lose an inch of height between the ages of 30 and 70, while women can lose about 2 inches. Typically, from age 40, half an inch is lost with each passing decade. Those who live up to age 80 and beyond may lose an additional inch (both sexes). Someone who shrinks more than that may have a serious health condition, like osteoporosis, to blame. Osteoporosis causes weaker, more brittle bones that can lead to microfractures, settling, or collapsing.

The Scientific Explanation Behind Shrinking

Once we’re born, we grow, but we reach our final, maximum height around age 18. Once we hit about age 30, the chemical composition of the body gradually changes in a process called “senescence.” Your spine, made up of bones stacked on top of one another called vertebrae, is what gives the body height and acts as the body’s pillar. One of the reasons people begin shrinking with age is because the fluid-filled discs that act as cushioning between the vertebrae, keeping the bones from rubbing together, retains less water and begins to break down. This causes the bones to settle in together and the result is the loss of a few millimeters in height.

Another cause of loss of height has nothing to do with the spine, but from the feet flattening over time. Yet another, albeit uncommon, severe form of height loss is not just from the above-mentioned reasons but from a hunched-over posture from a significant loss of muscle tone and spinal fractures, called hyperkyphosis.

How Can I Prevent Shrinking?

You may be worried that you’ll just have to let nature take its course and shrink along with everyone else. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. There are a few things you can do to stand as tall as possible for as long as possible to prevent bone density loss.

For example, some of the best ways to keep your bones strong as you age include:

  • Regular physical activity: Numerous studies show the benefits of exercise, as muscle strengthening aids bone strength.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements: Sufficient calcium and vitamin D maintains strong, healthy bones. Men and women over age 50 should have 1200 mg/day of calcium and eat calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products and leafy vegetables.
  • Good health habits: Don’t smoke, limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, and limit eating red meat.
  • Practice good posture: Stand up straight and avoid slouching, as looking down at your hand-held devices can negatively impact head and neck alignment. Strengthening your core muscles can improve your posture.

Contact Fox Valley Orthopedics for Better Bone Health

Do you need an orthopedic doctor? Looking to improve your bone health? Get in touch with Fox Valley Orthopedics by calling (630) 584-1400 to book an appointment or reach out online for a quick reply.