Why Am I Shrinking?

 

Evidence indicates that as adults age, we tend to get shorter. For most of us that is an unwelcome phenomenon. Additionally, and more importantly, it may also indicate potential unwanted health issues at hand.

There are many reasons why we get shorter with age, and none of them are good.

Our height is determined primarily by the length of our leg bones, spine and head. The leg bones and head generally do not change in length with age. So that leaves the culprit of the problem in the spine.

Our spine is a fascinating, complicated structure comprised of 24 individual vertebrae stacked on top of each other like building blocks and intricately held together with a myriad of ligaments and muscles. Filling the spaces between each of the vertebrae are shock absorber-like structures called intervertebral discs. Most of us have heard about these discs, or worse, have had to deal with them when they ”rupture” and allow the cushioning material held within to bulge out and press on a nerve root causing terrible pain.

But beside that, the vertebrae and/or the discs between can decrease in size as we age resulting in a “compaction” of the spine and loss of height. Furthermore, the vertebrae can be crushed in what’s called a compression fracture and result in permanent loss of height as well.

To make matters worse, the intervertebral discs can slowly “dry out” with age and therefore shrink in size, thus allowing the vertebrae to sit closer to each other, with not only a loss of height but also pressure applied to nerves exiting from the spinal canal resulting in back pain.

According to PubMed, Low back pain in the United States: “an estimated 2.06 million episodes of low back pain occurred among a population at risk of over 1.48 billion person-years for an incidence rate of 1.39 per 1,000 person-years in the United States.”

According to the American Chiropractic Society: Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability, preventing many people from engaging in work as well as other everyday activities.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.

Back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost work days in one year—that’s two work days for every full-time worker in the country.

Experts estimate that up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.

Low-back pain costs Americans at least $50 billion in health care costs each year—add in lost wages and decreased productivity and that figure easily rises to more than $100 billion.

I think you’ll agree, those are impressive statistics.

Why is This Such a Prevalent Problem? Are Humans Poorly Designed?

I don’t think so. I believe the culprit is because WE SIT TOO MUCH !

Sitting is one of the worst things we can do for our health, and we are spending more time sitting in modern life than ever before in the history of human evolution.

We go from the car, bus, or train, to the office, to lunch, back to the car, then more sitting at home after work.

Humans were not designed to sit so much. We were designed to be physically active.

A 2015 report in Annals of Internal Medicine found an association between prolonged sitting and a greater risk of dying from all causes—even for those who exercised regularly. A sedentary lifestyle was also shown to boost risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers (breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, and epithelial ovarian), and type 2 diabetes in adults.

In addition to all of these health risks, sitting is one of the worst things for your spine.

The longer you stay seated, the more likely you are to let your posture slide. Slouching can cause the spinal ligaments to stretch beyond their healthy limit, and poor posture can strain your spinal discs.

If you spend day after day sitting, you can cause significant spine issues over time. Regular, long bouts of sitting will speed up the wear and tear on your spinal discs, and neck and back pain can become a daily occurrence as opposed to an occasional problem.

As the discs wear out and the ligaments are stretched and weakened, the spine tends to become more compressed, resulting not only in pain, but also loss of height.

What Can be Done?

The simplest thing to do, obviously, is Don’t Sit So Much !

Get up from your desk frequently. Walk around when you are on the phone. Don’t sit through TV commercials. Even stand and walk around while watching TV. Take the stairs instead of elevators. Park further away in the parking lot. It’s a very simple solution. Get up out of your seat and move around more.

I personally have a really hard time sitting through a movie or going to the theatre. I feel a driving urge to stand up and walk around about every 20 minutes.

I know people who look so fit, with low body fat, and never gain weight. If you watch them carefully, I think you will notice that they don’t sit still very much. They are up and about like the ball in the pinball machines, constantly bouncing o the walls, literally !

There is a great book I read many years ago written by a New Zealand Chiropractor, Robin Mackenzie, called “Treat Your Own Back”. I think it’s available on Amazon. It’s an excellent monologue on practical easy-to-do back exercises at home ,both for back pain suerers, and those wanting to maintain optimal back hygiene.

Being more physically active, sitting less and walking more can have such a huge impact not only on your height, but also your overall health in general.

Do yourself a favor, get out of that seat !

All the Best, in Radiant Health, Dr. Howard Liebowitz

For more information about how you can achieve glowing health, free of chronic disease and prescription drugs, download your free copy of The REDDI Plan, a Five-Step Program for Optimal Aging here.

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