As we get older, we get shorter. But our height is not the only thing that shrinks with age. Most people lose at least about 1 cm in height every decade after the age of 40. By the age of 80, most people will be 5 – 8 cm shorter. From about the age of 35, we start to lose calcium within our bones which together with our ability to replace bone tissue causes our bones to shrink and become more brittle – a condition known as osteoporosis. As well as the bones shrinking, height loss is also caused by the flattening of the discs between the vertebrae.
To help reduce height shrinkage and reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis, you should maintain a healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D. Calcium may be found in green leafy vegetables, dairy products or you could take a calcium supplement. Vitamin D may be obtained via sunlight or supplementation. Research has also shown that people who engage in vigorous exercise lost only half as much height as someone who stopped exercising in middle age or who never exercised at all.
The heart shrinks by an average of 0.3 grams per year from middle age, affecting its ability to pump blood throughout the body. Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and less likely to shrink if it is exercised. Aerobic activities such as running, stair climbing, dancing or walking are great exercises to maintain heart health and size.
The brain weighs approximately 1.4 kg at the age of 20 but then starts to shrink by as much as 10 – 15 % during the remainder of your life. Studies show that the process appears to be accelerated by smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight, high cholesterol and diabetes. In addition to controlling the above lifestyle factors, keeping mentally active throughout your life is key to maintaining a healthy brain.
At the age of 25, the average person’s bladder can hold 500 ml of liquid but by 65 its capacity is half of that. In order to reduce the impact of a smaller bladder, avoid excess caffeine and alcohol which irritate the bladder. Regular pelvic floor exercises will also assist with bladder control.