Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Why am I getting shorter?

After age 40, people lose about half an inch in height with each decade, mainly in the spine.

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Q. Why do people over 60 lose height? I've lost a few inches over the years. Can this be prevented?

A. Actually, many people begin to lose height after age 40. After age 40, people lose a little less than half an inch in height with each decade, mainly in the spine. Your spine is a group of bones stacked on top of each other. As we get older, the bones lose calcium and get a little shorter. As each of the spine bones shrinks, so do we. When women start menopause, the tendency of bones to lose calcium increases. Men's spine bones also shrink with age. The best way to avoid losing height is to have plenty of calcium in the diet, plus adequate amounts of vitamin D, as well as staying physically active: bones remain stronger when they are challenged. 

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