We all have that sense that we are getting a little bit shorter as we get older. You are not imagining it! Starting at about age 40, we lose about ¼ – ½ an inch per decade. Losing too much height too rapidly however, can signal osteoporosis and be a warning sign for you to investigate your bone health!
Why do we shrink, what are the consequences, and what can we do?
Why do we shrink?
Think of a house settling on its foundation. Disks—the gel-like pads between vertebrae lose fluid over the years and flatten. Muscles lose mass and weaken, especially in the abdomen, which can exacerbate poor posture. You even shrink during the day (damn that gravity)! You may be 15 mm shorter tonight than you were this morning !
When people shrink more or faster, the biggest concern is osteoporosis, in which bones become weak, brittle and break more easily.
Broken Bones and Height Loss
People who have broken one or more bones during their adult years may already have osteoporosis and not know it. Broken bones in the spine can occur with no noticeable pain. These breaks can cause height loss. They can also cause the spine to curve forward. Breaks in the spine often go unnoticed until a person becomes aware that a significant loss of height of an inch or more has occurred.
What can I do to slow down shrinkage?
Improve your posture. Focus on exercises that will strengthen back muscles. Strengthen your bones with bone building exercises such as brisk walking and climbing stairs. The single best way to do that is to stay active. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is also important.