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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Does a Decrease in Height Indicate Osteoporosis?
I had my annual check today and found out I`ve lost half an inch of height (I was 5 feet 4 inches) in the past year! I had a DEXA Scan three years ago and it showed just a bit of osteopenia in my hip. I am female and I will be 53 next month. Is it normal to lose half an inch of height in a year?
The best way to monitor height in a medical office is to use a stadiometer. A stadiometer is permanently attached to the wall and has a perfectly level arm that slides up and down to sit directly on top of a person's head. The person should stand barefoot with heels against the wall and shoulders against the wall if possible. Measuring devices that are attached to scales are not highly accurate.
It is important to know that people can be slightly shorter in the afternoon than they are in the morning, presumably because the spine "settles". Furthermore, as we age our disks between the vertebrae flatten such that most of the early height loss people experience is due to disk compression and not osteoporosis.
Other phenomena that play a role in height loss are posture and scoliosis, both of which can get worse as we get older. It would behoove all of us to work on our spinal extensor muscles as we get older to help us maintain our erect posture.
Margery Gass, MD
Formely, Professor, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati