Do you feel shorter than you used to? It’s natural for both men and women to experience loss of height as they age. In fact, a recent report found that height loss is progressive and that people tend to lose ¼ to ½ inch every decade after age 50, with women generally losing more than men.
The Huffington Post states that this loss in height is the result of spine deterioration: our spine loses bone density and the gel-like disks that separate each vertebra get worn down. Although a minimal loss of height is a normal part of the aging process, a significant loss in height can be a greater cause for concern and signal health conditions such as compression fractures or osteoporosis.
A Loss of Height as We Age
Berkley Wellness reports that there are several contributing factors associated with height loss in older adults, including:
Collapsing vertebrae or compression fractures
Compression and dehydration of the discs between the vertebrae
Curvature of the spine
Flattening of the arches of the feet
Loss of bone density or osteoporosis
Loss of muscle in the torso – contributing to a stooped posture
Metabolic changes in the body
Osteoporosis is the most common cause of significant height loss for older adults.
However, osteoporosis isn't limited to older adults; osteopenia is quite common in adults with Down's syndrome, especially if they take anti-seizure medications.
The disease, which literally means “porous bones,” occurs when bone density decreases at a greater rate and the body stops producing new bone.
The Cleveland Clinic says osteoporosis is initially painless and symptoms do not develop until bones have become very weak and cause painful fractures – most often in the hip, spine and wrist.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at lifestyle changes you can make now for yourself or someone in your care to prevent this damage.