We all have to get on the scales to get weighed when we go to the doctor; but, remember the first time you noticed you had shrunk? That will shock you more than a 5 lb. weight gain. You automatically think, Where did I go? Then, the fear comes in and you think, Will I soon be in an episode of ‘Lord of the Rings?’ All kidding aside, it is part of life but we can do some things to help us adapt.
Why does this happen? Can we avoid this natural part of life? Can we at least fake it? It will happen to all of us, and there’s virtually nothing we can do to stop it, says Dr. Frank Schwab, spine service chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. It boils down to water.
The inner part of the cushiony discs between our vertebrae are spongy and gelatinous. As we age, the chemical composition of the discs changes very gradually and retains less water. “We all lose some of the water content in the disc, so the discs settle down,” Schwab explains. “And if you think of the whole spinal column, and you think just a few millimeters but across an entire spine, it all adds up, so we get shorter with age.”
In some cases, losing stature is due to osteoporosis. Your vertebrae can get so weak they develop micro-fractures, which cause the bones to settle or collapse, Schwab says. Fortunately, it’s not the case too often. If caught early, osteoporosis can be treated with medication to stop the bone loss from progressing. All women should be tested for osteoporosis starting at age 65 according to recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. If you have risk factors such as a history of cancer you should get a bone-density scan sooner, doctors say. I got my first scan when I was 51 and have had several since. It’s quick and painless, much like getting an X-ray.
- Women ages 51 to 70 should take 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 600 units of vitamin D daily according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Weight-bearing exercises can also help maintain healthy bones.
- Losing stature is gradual. It begins as early as our 30s, but it typically starts in our 50s or 60s and is a slow, continuous process.
- People typically lose about half an inch each decade.
- After the age of 80, it’s possible for both men and women to lose another inch according to Medicare.org.
How to Compensate
- Look in the mirror at your posture and start standing straighter.
- Do strengthening exercises for muscles in the back and buttocks. They control how much we lean forward. A strong back can counteract the forward pull of the spine.
- Do Yoga. Yoga emphasizes complete alignment of the body, mind, breath, and soul.
- Monochromatic dressing, which creates a tall, lean look.
- Pants should almost hit the ground for a taller look and shoes should have a pointy toe.
- Wear scoop necks and V-necks, the same color from head to toe, short jackets and cardigans, vertical stripes and pantyhose to match your shoes. Shoes should match your skin tone if you don’t wear hose.
Only about 20% of the population does not noticeably shrink, which is due to a combination of good genetics and a healthy lifestyle.
Ref. MSN/lifestyle.com, ageingwell/sheknows, nexttribe.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via livestrong.com