Sports / Orthopedic

Losing Height as We Age

Aug 28 2018
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Reasons you can lose height as you age

If you think you’re not as tall as you once were, it might not just be your imagination. You may be a couple of inches shorter. Losing a bit of height is normal as you age because the discs in your spine also age.

They dry out and begin to flatten, which means your spine won’t stay the same length it was when you were younger. There are other reasons why bodies grow shorter over time. Losing height is something you may inherit genetically. You can’t completely stop losing height, but it’s a good idea to learn the causes of losing height as we age — and how to slow down the process.

Osteoporosis

If you notice rapid height loss, it could be a sign of osteoporosis. This is a common condition that can happen as you age. Due to genetics, osteoporosis thins your bones and makes them fragile. Thin bones are weaker and can lead to frequent breaks or fractures. This causes pain, makes you more prone to falling and makes moving around difficult.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curve that forms in your spine. It means that your spine has an exaggerated S-curve or C-curve to it. You may have had it as a child, or you can experience it as an adult. It can affect your height as you age.

Degenerative disc disease

Lumbar degenerative disc disease — also called spinal stenosis — affects aging adults, too. The discs in your spine dry out and become stiff and weak as they get older. When this happens, the discs compress so there’s less space between them. That results in height shrinkage.

Lifestyle

Lack of exercise can weaken bones and cause your spine to become shorter over time. That means you start to shrink. Drinking too much alcohol can also reduce good hormones in your body that help strengthen your bones. If you’re smoking too much, it makes it hard for your body to absorb the calcium you need to maintain strong bones.

How to protect your bones

Your genetic makeup can affect your height over time. But you can help protect and strengthen your bones to slow down your shrinking height. One of the most important things you can do for your bone health as you age is get a bone density test. That way, you can find out if your bones are brittle because of osteoporosis.

If you’re female, it’s a good idea to get your bone density test when you’re in your late 40s. If you’re male, you can begin testing in your mid 60s. Talk to your primary care doctor or a doctor who specializes in bone health about scheduling a test.

Strengthen your bones to slow down shrinkage by taking the following steps:

  • Consider medication for osteoporosis.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise by running or training with weights.

Knowing why you may be shrinking and learning how to slow down the process can help your body remain flexible and strong as you age. Visit Mercy.com today to make an appointment with a primary care physician or a specialist and see if scheduling a bone density test is right for you.


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4 Comments

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Jean Balogh

This was very informative. Thank you!
August 28th, 2018 | 10:37am

SUSAN

I have lost two inches of height in 2 years, I'm 53. I told my doctor but he ignored me, should I be concerned?
September 03rd, 2018 | 1:06pm

Diane

Susan - you can get a bone density scan
September 08th, 2018 | 9:38pm

Mercy Health

Hi Susan, a doctor is best suited to answer your specific medical questions. If you would like to receive a second opinion, let us know if we can help connect you with one of our physicians. We're happy to help.
September 10th, 2018 | 8:41am

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