It’s not just poor posture, chances are if you are in your forties or older, you are shorter than you used to be. On average, people lose ¼ to ½ inch every decade after age 40 with more rapid shrinking as time goes on.
Several factors can contribute to why we lose height as we age. Generally, the discs between the vertebrae in the aging spine lose fluid, causing them to dehydrate and lose height. This process causes the spinal column to shorten. Our muscle mass, especially in the abdomen, also tends to weaken, which can cause uneven pressure on the discs and a stooped over posture.
Osteoporosis, a disease that reduces bone mass and density, is another common factor. The bone disease causes bones to become porous and brittle, leading to a far greater risk of fracture. For patients with Osteoporosis, an action as simple as coughing or lifting a heavy object can cause spinal compression fracture. This injury is when the spinal vertebrae break, often resulting in back pain, loss of height and a forward flexed posture.
While it is not possible to prevent height loss all together, there are certain measures that can help control loss of height. The best methods are to eliminate slouching, smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages and caffeine as much as possible, and supplement them with frequent physical activity and a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D. Not only will these positive habits help reduce the loss of height, they can also deter osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers.
If you are experiencing a more significant loss of height or postural change, you may have scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that can worsen as we age and cause postural changes. It is important to have that diagnosed accurately and assessed by x-rays and a physical exam.
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