My mom keeps getting shorter. At first, I thought I was imagining things, but then I began to read about shrinking with age. It’s a thing! Beginning anywhere from age 30-40, some people lose an average of half an inch per decade. Harvard Medical School and UCLA have both shared research confirming that height loss is a part of the normal aging process. Bummer if you’re down here with me at a whopping 5’3?.
While it’s normal to lose the average amount of height, some shrinking could be related to more serious health concerns. Always check with your physician if you’re losing a lot of height or have any concerns about your spine. As time passes, our spines lose bone density and the disks in-between our vertebrae get thinner and worn out; the result is a shorter spinal column. The arches of your feet also flatten out a little as the year’s pass. These things combine with less toned abdominal muscles and poor posture, leading to height loss and hunching.
Some good news for men: you’ll probably only lose 1.2-1.5 inches because you have more muscle mass, to begin with, while women can lose as much as 2 inches. Both sexes can stave off—and even prevent—shrinking by following some of these helpful suggestions.
1. Stand up straight
Start with the basics and remedy poor posture. Do you slump over at your desk, in your car, on the sofa? Stop right there and sit up straight, please. Good posture not only looks good from afar—it actually strengthens and builds muscles around your spine. As a yoga instructor, posture has always been extremely important to me, so I’ll share some simple suggestions here:
- Distribute weight equally between both feet when standing.
- Rest both feet on the floor when sitting at a desk or table.
- Let both hands hang at your sides when standing straight up.
- Don’t let your belly hang out; tuck it in.
- Keep your chin lifted, your head up, and your neck long.
- Splay your toes when standing up straight and press into the ball and heel of each foot.
- Pull your shoulders back and drop them away from your ears.
- Check your posture periodically in a mirror every day.
- Don’t slouch while eating dinner on the sofa.
2. Nourish your bones
After the age of 50, studies have shown that women need 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Remember that we can get calcium from leafy greens and some amazing veggies are mentioned in a Foods like kale, broccoli, tofu, almonds, and salmon are great sources of calcium. Greens like bok choy, collard and turnip greens, arugula, watercress, and spinach are all excellent sources of calcium, so vegans need fear not. You don’t have to go to the old 1950s American diet way and eat a pound of cheese every day. Balance is key, so enjoy a little cheddar or bleu with your dark leafy greens now and then.
The National Institute of Health recommends that we also take 60 IU of vitamin D daily until we hit 80; then we need to increase that to 800 IU per day. Getting plenty of sunshine every day is also a good idea. Almond, coconut, and rice milk are often fortified with vitamin D, as are many bowls of cereal and granola products.
3. Stop smoking and cut back on the drinking
Most of us know the major dangers of sticking with smoking, so just don’t do it. However, did you know that alcohol also damages bones and reduces estrogen levels? I’m sorry, party animals, but you have to slow it down. Booze makes it difficult for the body to use all of the calcium you ingest based on studies by the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They suggest that we only consume one drink a day. Try taking a few days off drinking every week, and see how much better you feel, right away. If a healthy liver isn’t incentive enough, think of how much taller you could be if you cut down on drinking right now.
4. Start a yoga practice
Yoga makes life better, period. It also leads to healthier bodies and bones with regular practice. Yoga is a weight-bearing workout in that you work against gravity in the poses. Resisting gravity via yoga puts healthy stress on our bones, forcing new growth. Yoga, walking, and racquetball all foster bone health, but yoga also promotes stress reduction and a calm, clearer mind. The best part is that yoga is low impact and will not put stress on the joints and cartilage in your body, so it’s a perfect addition to your plan for maintaining good bone health. Yoga also helps develop strong abdominal muscles, so your posture improves and you stand up straighter as a result.