As you grow up, you watch your grandparents slowly begin to stoop down as they walk. They may even appear to get shorter with age. You may not have thought much about it then, but now you’re entering your older years. When is a loss of height concerning, and how much can you expect to shrink with age?
Why Do We Shrink With Age?
As you get older, your body slows down. Each year after the age of 30, you lose approximately one heartbeat per minute off your maximum attainable heartbeat. This decreases blood flow and circulation.
The chemical composition of your body changes as well. In between your bones, there is a cushion that keeps your bones from rubbing together. Over time this cushion retains less water and deteriorates.
As your bones settle in together, you lose a few millimeters at a time. It is normal to shrink by about one inch as you age. If you shrink more than an inch, a more serious health condition may be to blame.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis weakens your bones, causing them to develop microfractures. Over time your bones may settle or collapse, causing you to get even shorter.
Who is at risk for osteoporosis? Women are at a greater risk than men for developing osteoporosis. If you have a history of cancer, your risk also increases. Your doctor may talk to you about completing a bone density scan, which is similar to an x-ray.
Older men and women are at a greater risk than other age groups because of changes in their estrogen and testosterone levels. If your levels are too low, it affects your bone mass, weakening your bones.
How is osteoporosis treated? When caught early, osteoporosis is treated to prevent bone loss and additional damage. Your treatment plan may include medications like:
- Estrogen therapy
- Hormone therapy
- RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor
Your doctor will consider your symptoms, bone density test results, and overall health when designing a treatment plan. In addition to medication, your doctor may suggest:
- Changes to your diet
- Supplements like calcium and vitamin D for bone health
- Regular exercise
- Weight loss
Preventing Bone Density Loss
While you can’t prevent yourself from getting osteoporosis, you can take healthy steps toward maintaining strong bones.
Maintain a healthy diet. Make sure your diet provides a balance of nutrients for your overall health. Calcium and vitamin D are the foundation of strong bones, but the rest of your body needs to be healthy as well.
Consider taking supplements. You should try to get the majority of your nutrients from healthy foods. However, in some cases supplements are necessary. If you may have diet restrictions or need more of a vitamin or mineral that you cannot reasonably get from food, supplements are a great alternative. Your doctor may also want you to increase your calcium and vitamin D intake to slow down your bone shrinkage.
Get more exercise. You may think that strenuous exercises put you at a greater risk for bone damage, but the opposite is true. All activity comes with risk, but cardio like walking fast, jogging, and running help strengthen your bones.
You should always talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen. If you do pick up a new activity, take it slow and listen to your body to prevent fractures and breaks.
Eliminate unhealthy habits. Alcohol, caffeine, and smoking all weaken your bones. While they don’t cause osteoporosis or bone loss, they can contribute to worsening your condition. No matter how old you are, it’s not too late to kick your unhealthy habits and change your life.