It’s true. As we age, we shrink. If you stood at 168 cm (5 ft 5 in) in your prime, you may find yourself standing at 164 cm (a tad below 5 ft 4 in) later in your life. It’s a drag but an inevitable fact of the aging process. And guess what else…this phenomenon can begin at the young-old age of 30 years!
It’s natural to lose half a centimetre to as much as one and a quarter centimetres every decade after you hit 40. Women on the average lose about 5 cm. (2 inches) between 30 to 70 years of age. After that, the loss of height gets more pronounced with a total loss of as much as 7.62 cm. (3 inches). Men, on the other hand, lose less with 3 cm. (1.2 inches) between 30 to 70 years old and by age 80, a total of 5 cm (2 inches).
Why Do We Shrink When We Age?
Our spinal column consists of spongy intervertebral discs that lie between the vertebrae. These discs act as the shockproof padding of our spine and aids in the spine’s mobility. When we age, these discs wear down and thin out. The vertebrae lose the thickness of their “paddings,” causing the spine to shorten in length and consequently to shave off some back height through the years.
Osteoporosis can also be a major reason why women especially find themselves a little shorter than before. Bone density deterioration is sadly a side effect of menopause.
Rapid Stature Loss is a Red Flag
As natural as getting shorter is to the aging process, losing more than the average number of centimetres or losing height rapidly can be a red flag, signalling that something more serious is brewing with your health. The warning is particularly telling in men who actually have more muscle mass and a slower bone loss rate than women do. If a man suddenly loses two inches in two years for instance, he may have more than a 50% chance of suffering from a hip fracture, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
Rapid height decline could warn of heart disease and osteoporosis. Men who lost more than 3.81 cm. (1.5 inches) could be on the high risk path to cardiac arrest and failure. As mentioned, they could also be trudging towards a future hip fracture due to osteoporosis. The average height decrease with men should only be 1.2 to 1.3 cm. (or half an inch) over a 20-year period. This mean was established by a U.K. study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis and therefore to shrinkage. During menopause and after, our bones lose their density through the years because of declining levels of oestrogen. Women, who lose a rapid 5 cm (2 in.) in 2 years, stand a 21 percent chance more of fracturing their hip also in the next 2 years.
Can We Stop the Shrinking?
We can’t stop losing a few centimetres of our height unfortunately but we can forestall the inevitable. We can keep standing tall way into our senior years by ensuring our bone health with these steps:
Eat for your bones – We need to beef up our calcium levels in our bones to keep their densities high and their structure, strong. Women over 50 years of age and men over 70 need about 1300 mg. of calcium daily and about 600 IU of Vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium. Women over the age of 80 need more Vitamin D units at 800 IU.
Calcium can be sourced from supplements as well as from food. Food rich in calcium include yoghurt, sardines, soybeans, milk, and cheese. As for Vitamin D, the best source is sunlight; so, practice safe sun exposure for 20-25 minutes. Salmon, tuna, and fortified milk are good secondary sources.
Kick out the vices – Smoking is an enemy to the bones (and practically much everything else). It lowers bone density and even decreases oestrogen in women. Drinking alcohol gets in the way of calcium absorption so you may want to limit your happy hours drastically as well.
Move It! – Hit the gym and lift those weights. Weight bearing and resistance exercises force the body to produce bone tissue thereby increasing bone density. The production of bone is a coping response to the stress exercise places on your skeletal system. An Israeli research found out that those who worked out in their middle age and throughout their lives lost much less height in their senior years than those who have never exercised or stopped doing so in their middle age. So, exercise to keep that skeletal framework strong and relatively young. You’ll reap the benefits of having the posture or stance of a much younger you.