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What You Can Do To Prevent
Yourself From Shrinking

Height loss is a normal fact of aging, unfortunately people don’t notice it when the decrements are small, and not all height loss is normal.

Studies show some people can lose between one and two inches between the ages of 30 and 70. However, people in their 30s tend to not notice the decrease in height. In their 50s and 60s is when it becomes obvious, researchers say. One study, conducted on men and women between the ages of 30 and 70, found that men lost an average of 1 1/4 inches and women lost two inches in their height. When the participants reached 80 years old, the loss had increased to two inches for the men and three inches for the women.

There are two main reasons why people get shorter as they get older, our bones and our disks. Most orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists will say after a person turns 30 years old, their bones get thinner, less dense and more porous. The spine will become susceptible to microfractures, which are tiny breaks that may go unnoticed.

These breaks happen in the vertebrae, and when this happens a person’s spine becomes shorter. And as for the disks, which are also located in the vertebrae, they start wearing out and they tend to flatten over the years.

If a person is experiencing painful and sudden height loss, this is not normal, researchers say. In this case a person is most likely encountering an acute compression fracture caused by osteoporosis--the thinning of the bones or loss of bone density. This disease is the biggest cause of height loss and leads to the microfractures that gradually shrink the spine and cause bad posture. The contributors to osteoporosis are: a diet lacking in calcium or vitamin D, smoking, too much alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, being underweight or having an eating disorder, having a fair complexion and a family history of osteoporosis. Fortunately, most of these negatives are things an individual can work on.

Researchers say losing less than an inch over a length of time is normal for height loss but a loss of more than an inch over a length of time is indicative of a medical problem.

SOURCE: Washington Post February 3, 2004


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