Hi I’m Miranda. I am ten years old and I live in California. My question is: Why do old people get shorter?
What an interesting question, Miranda!
Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about this for some time. Until you’re 30 or so (I know it looks old), you’ll keep growing. However, after this, most people start to shrink gradually. So when you are 80 years old (yes, that looks really old), you’ll be 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) shorter.
Back, muscles and joints
So, what exactly is shrinking in your body that much? Ah, that’s another interesting question. The secret lies in what keeps your body erect – your back. It is made of 33 tiny bones called the vertebrae. Between most of these vertebrae there are discs made of softer tissue.
The middle of these tablets are soft like jelly, and they are made mostly of water. These act as shock absorbers when walking, running, and jumping.
As you get older, these tablets slowly lose water and become slightly flat. But because there are 23 of these discs, they make up a quarter of the height of your back. When all of them shrink a little, it all builds up and gets shorter.
Older adults’ muscles also become smaller and weaker, their bones thinner, and the spaces between the bones in their joints become smaller. Together, this can also change your height.
People can shrink a lot
While a slight change in height in older adults is normal, a severe shrinkage – more than 2 inches (5 cm) – can be a bit problematic that could be a sign of a disease in which your bones become very weak and brittle, and are easy to break.
When muscles weaken, especially the muscles that support your back, your back may bend, making you appear shorter. Weak muscles can also cause back pain and problems with balance.
So, is there anything you can do to stop short life when you get older? There certainly is. If you eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and go outdoors to play in the sun from time to time, this will help keep your bones and muscles healthy and prevent you from getting short when you get older.
Your height changes throughout the day
Another thing you might not realize is that even when you are young, your height changes throughout the day. You’re actually taller when you wake up in the morning, but you lose up to an inch of height within three hours of getting out of bed.
This is because when you sleep, your body relaxes and allows water to return to the gel centers of the discs in your spine. But when you bounce off the bed, the pressure on these tablets causes them to lose water again and get a little smaller.
So, if you really want to be the tallest person you can be (maybe you’re picked for a basketball team, maybe?), Try measuring your height after getting out of bed in the morning.
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