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10th March 2020

Associate Professor Adam Hawkey explains the science behind why you get shorter as you get older.

While you may be aware that a loss of vision, hearing and memory is a sign of ageing, something that is perhaps not so noticeable is a reduction in height. This apparent shrinking is due to several factors relating to changes in bone, muscles, joints and other tissues in your body. While a certain amount of height loss is a normal part of ageing and unlikely to be associated with any health problems, significant height loss may indicate underlying issues. Understanding what happens to your body as you age is important so you can counteract some of the negative effects of ageing.

As early as your thirties, age-related muscle loss, known scientifically as sarcopenia, can mean you lose muscle mass at a rate of 3-5% each decade. Of particular concern are those muscles in your torso, which are primarily responsible for keeping you in an upright position. A reduction in their ability to maintain your posture can make you look stooped and hence shorter.

Another reason for height loss as you age is your bone health. Bone is an extremely complex connective tissue that can adapt its size and shape in response to mechanical loads. This enables your bone to remodel itself throughout your life.

Read Adam Hawkey's article in full on The Conversation

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