Working in orthopedics we often see the shrinking population. Shrinking in the sense that gravity seems to taking hold with every birthday. A commonly heard statement is, “I used to be 5′ 7″ and now I am 5’4″, what happened!?” What scientific reasons cause the reduction of our stature? Well, we’re going to try to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.
There are several different reasons for losing height as we age:
- The discs in the vertebrae tend to dry up and shrink as we grow older and this causes the entire spine to collapse.
- Osteoarthritis: The ends of our bone that create a joint are covered in cartilage. As we live life, adding wear on our bodies with injuries, we lose that cartilage over time and this results in loss of height over decades.
- Osteoporosis: Due to the loss of bone density, the vertebrae or “bone blocks” in the spine collapse, resulting in further shortening. Some lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can have an effect on bone health, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Other medications can affect bone health. That’s why it is so important to have a primary care physician following your health as we age. Poor nutrition may also lead to osteoporosis. We may live in a developed society where food is abundant, but we can still lack the necessary nutrients to keep our bodies healthy.
- Posture: Mom always said to stop slouching. Perhaps she knew what she was talking about. Upper back and core strengthening is vital to keeping a healthy posture. If neglected, over time these changes can be permanent.
The weight of the world is literally weighing down on us but with a bit of core and scapular strengthening tied into a healthier lifestyle, hopefully we can slow the degeneration.
“It’s very gradual, and if it’s not interfering with function, it’s basically cosmetic and it’s nothing to worry about,” Dr. David Reuben (chief of the division of geriatrics at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA)
We are building bone and strengthening our skeletal system from infancy to about age 30. When we start losing our bone density. For these reasons, it is so important to get the proper nutrients as we develop into adulthood. Less donuts and potato chips and more fish and leafy greens. Exercise routines are also important to keep our bones strong and healthy.
Overall, there really isn’t anything to worry about when we notice that we are not as tall as we once were, as long as you’re not in pain. If you do have pain then you should consult your physician. Unfortunately, it’s part of life for many of us.
By: Stephanie Jones