Are you shorter than you used to be? Here’s what causes loss of height with age.
Have you had your height measured recently? You may never have been supermodel tall, but if it’s been a while, you may be surprised to find that you’re a little shorter than you used to be. Don’t blame it on the measuring stick. Chances are that height loss is real. What causes height loss with age and is there anything you can do about it?
Loss of height with age is a normal phenomenon that can rear its ugly head as early as age thirty. It affects both men and women, with women showing a slightly greater loss of height over the years than men. Getting shorter with age was initially thought to be due to shrinkage of the discs separating each vertebrae, but a study showed the actual cause is compression of the bony vertebrae themselves. How much height do most people lose? The majority of people sacrifice an average of 0.4 inches in height every ten years after the age of forty. Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to control this type of age related height loss.
A more serious reason for loss of height with age is osteoporosis. This is where the vertebrae actually break down due to bone loss. This can lead to bony deformities such as the hunched over appearance seen in older ladies as well as loss of height. Although osteoporosis is more commonly seen in women, it also affects men and some people believe this disease is under diagnosed in the male population.
How do you know whether you’re experiencing normal height loss with age or osteoporosis? Osteoporosis can be a silent disease until the first fracture occurs. One way to identify a problem is to keep careful track of height. A height loss of two inches or more during adulthood is a warning sign of potential bone problems and should be followed up with a bone density study to check for osteoporosis. Height should be routinely checked at each doctor’s visit and any changes noted from previous measurements. If there’s a significant change or there are risk factors for osteoporosis, further evaluation may be needed.
Can hormone therapy such as use of estrogen in women prevent height loss with age? A study published in the journal Menopause showed that estrogen has little or no affect on prevention of age-related loss in height. With the potential risks of hormone therapy becoming so apparent this is unlikely to be a safe solution for this problem anyway.
The bottom line? Height loss with age is normal but too much loss in height is not. See your doctor regularly and make sure your height is checked at each visit and compared to the last measurement. Be sure to discuss with your doctor any risks for osteoporosis you may have including family history. Then, stand tall!