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Are You Really Getting Shorter?

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerFebruary 12, 2018

Do you feel shorter than you used to? It’s natural for both men and women to experience loss of height as they age. In fact, a recent report found that height loss is progressive and that people tend to lose ¼ to ½ inch every decade after age 50, with women generally losing more than men.

The Huffington Post states that this loss in height is the result of spine deterioration: our spine loses bone density and the gel-like disks that separate each vertebra get worn down. Although a minimal loss of height is a normal part of the aging process, a significant loss in height can be a greater cause for concern and signal health conditions such as compression fractures or osteoporosis.

 A Loss of Height as We Age

Berkley Wellness reports that there are several contributing factors associated with height loss in older adults, including:

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  • Collapsing vertebrae or compression fractures
  • Compression and dehydration of the discs between the vertebrae
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Flattening of the arches of the feet
  • Loss of bone density or osteoporosis
  • Loss of muscle in the torso – contributing to a stooped posture
  • Metabolic changes in the body
  • Poor health
  • Poor nutrition

Osteoporosis is the most common cause of significant height loss for older adults.

The disease, which literally means “porous bones,” occurs when bone density decreases at a greater rate and the body stops producing new bone. The Cleveland Clinic says osteoporosis is initially painless and symptoms do not develop until bones have become very weak and cause painful fractures – most often in the hip, spine and wrist.

The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published results from a study that found “women over the age 70 who lose two or more inches in two years are 21% more likely to fracture a hip in the next two years than are women who shrink less.”

Ways to Prevent Getting Shorter with Age

There are ways to prevent getting shorter as we age. Use these tips to put a stop to height loss:

Exercise Regularly

Older adults should aim to have at least two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, which includes musclestrengthening activities on two or more of those days. Weight-bearing exercises that require your body to work against gravity, such as aerobics, strengthens bones and the muscles that support them.

Medical News Today also suggests strengthening your core muscles to maintain good posture to support the spinal column. The following core exercises are great ways to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles:

  • Abdominal crunch: Laying on the back with knees bent and feet on the floor, raise the head and shoulders using the core muscles.
  • Plank: Keep abdominal muscles engaged, hold the position at the top of a push-up.
  • Superman: Laying on the stomach, extend the arms, legs, and head off the floor and hold.

Follow a Healthy Diet

A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is necessary to keep bones strong and prevent loss of height. The Huffington Post reports that “women older than 50 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day to keep their bones strong, according to the National Institutes of Health.”

Vitamin D is responsible for helping your body absorb calcium and “most women need 600 IU of the vitamin a day, while women older than 70 need 800 IU.”

Foods rich in calcium include almonds, broccoli, dairy, kale, salmon and tofu; while egg yolks, fortified milk and fish offer great sources of vitamin D. Supplement your diet with multivitamins if you are unable to get all the nutrients you need through healthy foods alone.

Protect Your Bones

An article in Medical News Today entitled “Can You Increase Your Height as an Adult?” suggests that there are several important risk factors that you can control to prevent osteoporosis, such as:

  • Avoiding smoking cigarettes
  • Exercising regularly, including weight-bearing exercises
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Maintaining adequate nutrition
  • Staying properly hydrated

Taking a proactive approach to your health and getting screened for osteoporosis is also within your control. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that “screening for bone density typically begins around the time of menopause for women – in their mid-to-late-40s, while men usually begin screening in their mid-60s.”

Age-related loss of height is a concerning prospect for many people entering their senior years. To avoid getting shorter, it’s important to take proactive steps to protect your bones and make adjustments in your lifestyle to improve your overall health.

Have you found that you or a senior loved one are getting shorter as you age? Which tips have you used to prevent height loss? We’d like to hear more about your experience in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler
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