By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the course of their lifetimes, people can get shorter. Men can lose about an inch on average as they get older. For women, it’s more than two. So, why do we shrink as we age? Good Question.

“It has to do with gravity, the ravages of gravity,” says Dr. Kjell Lindgren, a NASA astronaut.

When he spent 141 days on the International Space Station, he stretched an inch.

“For the longest time, we thought that was because of the intervertebral discs — those cushions in between our vertebrae that those kind of inflated and hydrated, and that’s where that came from,” says Lindgren. “Recently results show that’s not the case, that is really is kind of a posture change.”

He says without gravity, people lose some of the curves in their upper and lower back.

With gravity – which is how everyone else on Earth lives – the opposite happens and people will get shorter. As people age, they lose muscle tone, which is mostly responsible for posture. Bones also lose mineral density and can cause some of the vertebrae to compress along with the discs in between.

“The cartilage becomes less spongy and starts to compress as well,” says Lindgren.

People can start shrinking in their 40s. On average, women lose about a half-inch every decade after age 40.

Experts say it’s not entirely possible to prevent a person from getting shorter as they age, but exercise, especially resistance training, and a balanced diet with calcium can help.

“It’s the prescription for good health in general and the prescription we follow at the astronaut office,” says Lindgren.

Heather Brown

Comments (2)
  1. Jena Bushey says:

    Heather, I saw this story last night and was jumping up and down to answer you. As a Tai Chi instructor, I have witnessed in others and experienced for myself an increase in height from their training. Retired women seeing an increase of a quarter to half an inch, as monitored by their doctors. I am in my 30’s and have grown an inch.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.