Are you shrinking?

Ever wonder why grandma and grandpa seem to get shorter each time you see them? Well, as we age we tend to shrink. Although the most dramatic losses in height can be traced back to spinal fractures in weak demineralized bone, a number of other factors also contribute to a gradual loss in height as we age and these begin when we reach our mid-40’s.

Muscle atrophy. Our muscles are what support our skeleton.  If physical exercise is minimal, our muscles become weakened and cannot provide skeletal support and we tend to sag.

Vertebral remodeling. According to physiologists, the bones of the spine undergo a structural change at around 50 years of age.  During this restructuring, they become wider and flatter, better enabling the spine to absorb stress more readily, lowering the risk of spinal fractures.  As these bones flatten we lose height.

Disk deterioration. Padding between the vertebrae of the spine serve as shock absorbers and begin to wear thin with time.  This can result in spinal compression and further height loss.

Poor posture throughout our middle years and into old age can further muscle atrophy and cause muscle groups to become imbalanced, robbing us of more height.  If you are concerned about your own height loss, it is best if you consistently measure yourself at the same time of day, as we tend to be as much as an inch taller aftr we awaken than we are toward the end of the day.

Women over the age of 43 usually begin to lose about 0.1% of their height annually.  This would cause a woman who was 5’6″ in her youth to shrink down to around 5″3″ in her 80’s.  Yoga and stretching anyone?

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