Aging is fact of life, but shrinking doesn’t have to be. Though experts say both men and women can lose up to two inches between the ages of 30 and 70, and another inch after 80, there are measures you can take to minimize this, and to stay as close to your original height as possible.
What causes height loss, anyway?
Regardless of whether you have experienced any personal height loss, you will have observed shrinking older people around you throughout your life. But what causes it? We take it for granted as a side-effect of aging, alongside wrinkling of the skin and greying of the hair, but should we?
According to research distilled in the New York Times’ ‘Booming’ blog, it is all to do with the spinal vertebrae. Specifically, the disks between the spinal vertebrae, which start out as ‘gel-like’, dry out as you get older, thus closing the gap between the bones and compressing the spine itself.
In short, then, it’s simple gravity. This compression often results in curvature of the spine, which in more extreme cases leads to hyperkyphosis, or dowager’s hump. So if we know why it happens, is there anything we can do to stop it? We can’t combat gravity directly, but we can do several things to offset its effects on our spines.
If you are truly troubled by the thought of shrinkage, you may want to resort to bone surgery. It is unlikely that any surgeon will operate on your spine as that carries with it too many risks, but leg-lengthening is a very real option for those looking to gain, regain, or pre-emptively gain a few inches.
Some surgeons, such as Dr Guichet, can use special nails and external fixators to help you gain up to 10cm in height. Thanks to this state of the art technology, patients can be up and walking the very same day as their operation, at their full height no less.
Bad posture can lead to a down-curved spine even before your spinal disks start to dry out, and lead to height loss that isn’t even caused by aging. Combatting this kind of shrinking has a knock-on effect, lessening the severity of any age-based shrinkage you may encounter.
Though it can be explained in many different complicated ways, the simplest tip for maintaining good posture is just to stand up straight. If you have a specific posture problem (such as leg leaning or flat back) this NHS page can help you out. Improving your posture can help you keep your full height and decrease your back pain at the same time.
To attempt to tackle aged-based height loss, you could address the problem right at the source: your spine. Better posture will help, but nothing strengthens muscles and bones better than good old fashioned exercise.
These back-strengthening exercises from Spine Health should help prepare your spine for the onslaught of gravity. Even if you still work in an office or are sitting down all day, there are ways to stay fit, as celebrity personal trainer Jon Denoris explains.
Follow all these tips and you should be able to stand tall and proud for the rest of your days.