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Why do older people shrink as they age? Here are the reasons, along with some ways you can prevent and even reverse this nasty effect of aging.
And by the way, Baby Boomers, we are getting older. In fact, we are now aged 53 – 71. Officially old and well into the time frame where we shrink, lose bone and muscle mass and get fatter. In fact, experts say we are now the least fit, most fat generation in all of history.
Yay! Nobody told us getting older would be this much fun, right?
In my case, turning 60 brought with it some reflection on this whole aging thing. I realized that Boomers like me never really believed we’d ever grow old. Remember when we said “never trust anyone over 30.” We actually thought at one time that 30 was old!
We thought we’d be forever young. And we were invincible.
Doesn’t work that way in the real world. It’s now our turn, ready or not.
Personally, I’ve had several wake up calls along the way.
There was the heart attack and open heart surgery in my late 40’s. Followed by weakened vision, arthritis, ringing in the ears, hair turning white/grey and falling out in my 50’s. And just last year, there was colon surgery to take out a pre-cancerous growth. This year, an out-patient procedure to fix an incisional hernia from the previous surgery turned into an extended stay in the hospital and several days in ICU as my vitals mysteriously dropped off the charts. (I’m back to normal now, whew!)
All were signs I am anything but invincible or forever young (sorry, Rod Stewart).
So, ok, I get it. Enough with the signs, please. I’m committed to doing everything I can to make my remaining years healthy, happy and free from the preventable and crippling effects of aging.
Have you ever wondered why some older people wind up hunched over, frail and in need of a walker or wheel chair — while others seem to stay relatively robust and able to move about freely?
In some cases, it might be due to lucky genetics. But there are definitely things you can do to put yourself in the healthy, upright category.
Starting around 30 or 40, people typically lose half-an-inch per decade in height.
The loss of bone mass in our spinal columns, combined with loss of cartilage between our spinal disks, causes the shrinking.
The Keys to fixing it:
Diet: Eat a diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin D. And/or take vitamin supplements. Check with your doctor. Women in particular are more prone to bone loss. Here are some guidelines on Calcium and Vitamin D needs from the National Institutes of Health.
Resistance Training: When it comes to your bones, use it or lose it. Load-bearing exercises send a signal to your body to strengthen the bones against that load. A study tracking the same men and women over a 30 year period, reported by the National Institutes of Health, found that resistance training had a significant impact on reducing the loss of height in both men and women.
The loss of muscle mass due to aging. Combined with the shrinking, it makes us frail and less able to move about freely.
The Key to fixing it:
Resistance Training, again. According to Web MD: “The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise, specifically resistance training or strength training. These activities increase muscle strength and endurance using weights or resistance bands.
Resistance training can help your neuromuscular system. It also can improve an older adult’s ability to convert protein to energy in as little as two weeks.”
Due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Baby Boomers in particular are becoming obese and prone to Diabetes at alarming rates.
The Keys to fixing it:
Diet, again. Obviously, obesity is related to diet and other bad habits, like too much alcohol. You have to step up to this one and eat properly. You are what you eat.
Resistance Training, again. Nothing burns calories better than resistance training. Muscle demands fuel from your body 24 hours a day. So resistance training and building muscle burns fuel even when you’re not exercising. Cardio may burn a few more calories while you’re actually doing it, but it doesn’t have the after-burn like resistance training does.
There’s a reason it keeps coming up as a key solution. It is, in my opinion, the single best thing we can do for ourselves as we age. I’ve been at, in between ‘wake up calls,’ for more than 48 years.
You don’t have to try and become a bodybuilder or set an Olympic record. This is really about our health and well being as we fight back against shrinking, bone loss, muscle loss, diabetes and more.
Please see this post for more details on how to start a Resistance Training program to burn fat and build muscle. You can do it at home with something as a simple as a set of resistance bands, or in a more elaborate home gym or an outside facility. Where and with what really doesn’t matter.
For your sake and those you love, please just start working out. Go slowly at first and build up to it. Keep at it. Consistency in doing it is the most important thing.
And while we’re on the subject of shrinking, I’d like to suggest you consider a Teeter Hangups for stretching out those vertebrae. I’ve been using mine for many years and find it a great way to stretch.
Mine is now outdated compared to the modern models, but I’ve never had a single problem with it and it continues to give me a unique and comforting way to stretch out my aching back.
Here’s how Teeter describes the product:
UNMATCHED COMFORT & SUPPORT: Patented wrap-around ankle cups are made from specialty foam. Contoured Bed with Hand Grips flexes for comfort and optimizes stretch for maximum relief.
HIGH GRADE MATERIALS FOR RELIABILTY: Heavy-gauge steel parts with patented security features like auto-locking hinges, cam locks,specialized pivot bearings for durability.
PRECISION ROTATION FOR TOTAL CONTROL: Shift your body weight with just simple arm movements for easy return to the upright position.
TRUST TEETER: UL Safety Certification; 5-year Full Warranty; Easy 5-Step Assembly; 35-Year Legacy; 300 LB user capacity.