Harvard Men's Health Watch

Why do I shrink as I grow older?

Ask the doctor

Q. I was upset to find out at my last doctor's visit that I'm an inch and a half shorter than I used to be. Why am I shrinking?

A. Most men are distressed to discover they are not as tall as they were in high school. But the biological fact is that men lose an average of two inches over the course of their lifetimes. (Some research suggests it is a half-inch per decade after age 40.) So your shrinking is probably due to normal aging.

Several factors lead to loss of height. The intervertebral discs, which are the cushions between the spinal bones, dry out and lose their sponginess and height. Also, thinning bones can cause the spine to curve forward, creating kyphosis (rounding of the upper back).

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