When you think of elderly people – whether you know them personally, or are imagining any elderly person – how tall are they? Our guess is that you don’t imagine them to be very tall at all, which makes a lot of sense given old people… shrink as they age.
If you’ve ever wondered why your grandparents or parents seem so short or think you’ve been imagining them getting smaller? We’re here to tell you that it’s not your imagination. They probably aren’t as tall as they used to be.
Why do we shrink as we age?
There are a few reasons why we shrink as we get older.
The discs between our vertebrae lose fluid
This means that our vertebrae will flatten out a little and move closer together, so our spine actually starts to shrink! Pretty crazy, huh?
The arches of our feet can begin to flatten.
Which means we no longer stand as tall as we once did! Who knew our feet played such a big part in our height? Not us (until we had to do the research for this guide).
We lose muscle mass.
We find that our muscle mass begins to drop in our abdomen (in particular), leading to poorer posture (hence the hunching you’re likely used to seeing) and subsequent illusion that we’re shorter.
Our body slows down as we age, in general.
After the age of 30, we lose approximately one heartbeat per minute. This naturally decreases blood flow and circulation – so we start to slow down (from the young age of 30, yes).
How much do we shrink?
Before you start freaking out about becoming the smallest human on the planet, we have some good news. If you start shrinking – simply as a result of the ageing process – you’re unlikely to lose more than an inch of your height. We usually lose no more than a few millimetres at a time, so if you feel like you’ve suddenly become a lot smaller than you were a few months (or years) ago… you should probably get that checked out. Other medical conditions might be at play.
If I’m losing more than an inch or so, what could be happening?
You might have Osteoporosis. This is a condition that weakens your bones and causes them to develop microfractures. As a result, you might find your bones begin collapsing (and you can become even shorter).
Who is at risk of Osteoporosis?
Everyone can be at risk, but we usually see women experiencing it more than men. Those with a history of cancer also have a higher risk of experiencing Osteoporosis – and if that’s you, your doctor might organise a bone density scan to check out what’s happening beneath the skin.
How can I prevent myself from shrinking?!
Unfortunately Osteoporosis can’t be prevented. However, bone density loss can be.
Here are three healthy steps that can help you maintain your height as you age:
Maintain a healthy diet
Eat well, and ensure you jam-pack your meals (and snacks) with heaps of calcium and vitamin D. A balanced diet is always recommended by health professionals, especially as we age.
Supplement your diet with vitamins
If you don’t find that you’re getting your recommended vitamin intake from your meals alone (say, if you’re a fussy eater or have super specific dietary requirements), you can consider supplementing with vitamins. We’d recommend talking to your doctor about this before getting started though, they’ll likely want to run some tests and make some informed decisions with you.
Exercise more often
Think exercise will put you at greater risk of bone damage and shrinking? Well, think again. Cardio-based exercise like walking (fast), jogging and running can help strengthen your bones. As mentioned above though, we’d recommend chatting to your doctor before engaging in new forms of exercise.
Sooo… yep. Turns out we do shrink as we age (and it’s nothing to be afraid of). But, if you’re wanting to slow down the process or do your best to prevent shrinkage from occurring? We’d recommend eliminating unhealthy habits, implementing healthier ones into your everyday life and, of course, chatting to your doctor.
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