Shrinking of The Body & Aging

Have you measured yourself to see how tall you are lately?  Losing and inch or so in height may or may not come as a surprise as shrinking with age is a very common occurrence for most of us.  Estimates vary, but on average a person will lose ¼ to ½ inch every decade after the age of 40 or 50.  The older you get, the greater the loss in height will be.

Research from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging has found women lose an average of 2 inches between the ages of 30 and 70 while men lose a little more than an inch by age 70 and up to 2 inches by age 80. 

There are several reasons why we become a bit shorter as the years go by which may include:

·        As we age discs between the vertebrates lose fluid so they flatten slightly causing compression and the spine to shrink a little. 

·        The arches of our feet will tend to flatten with age giving a slight reduction in height.

·        Aging brings about loss in muscle mass particularly in the abdomen adding to poor posture and giving the appearance of being shorter.

·        Osteoporosis – the brittle bone disease – can lead to height reduction due to loss of bone density.

Healthcare providers should measure a person’s height as part of their yearly exams.  If there is significant loss in height, this can give the provider clues to possible compression fractures or loss of muscle mass contributing to shrinkage.  Compression fractures may or may not cause pain but can limit mobility which could be one reason for loss of muscle mass.  The more shrinkage a person experiences, especially after the age of 65, the greater the risk of hip and other nonvertebral fractures.  Studies have found that people 65 and older who have lost at least 2 inches in the past 15 to 20 years, are at a greater risk for hip fracture than those who have shrank less.

Is it possible to prevent shrinkage?

There is always a possibility but genetics will always have the upper hand.  The best way to prevent minimal shrinkage is to begin early in life by making your bones as dense as possible by consuming a calcium and vitamin D rich diet.

For many that time has come and gone but even so, there are still some steps you can take to further slow the rate of shrinkage as the years go by:

·        Lift weights on a regular basis for improving bone density and to build and maintain muscle mass.

·        Consume an adequate calcium intake of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams a day to build strong bones

·        Consume an adequate intake of vitamin D – between 800 to 1,000 IU for most people.  Vitamin D is necessary for absorbing calcium.

·        Consume more vitamin K rich foods such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens to improve bone mineral density.

·        Drink alcohol in moderation

·        Do not smoke

·        Engage in moderate to vigorous exercise a minimum of 150 minutes each week or at least 30 minutes, five days a week – a Belgian study published in Gerontology found people who participated in regular exercise shrank less than people who are sedentary or stopped exercising after the age of 40.

·        Practice yoga or Pilates.  Some people swear they have actually gained inches in height doing these practices.  While there is no guarantee this helps prevent shrinkage, both yoga or Pilates can improve posture giving you the appearance of remaining the same height. 

·        Be aware of your posture throughout the day making sure you are standing straight and not slouching.