Should you be worried that you’re getting shorter?

A significant loss of height may be an indicator of osteoporosis. Should you be worried?

Should you be worried that you’re getting shorter?

Have you noticed that either you or someone you know seems to be getting shorter? It’s not just your eyesight! Although loss of height commonly occurs with ageing, a significant loss of height may also be an indicator of osteoporosis. While it may not be obvious at first, any loss greater than 3cm should be discussed with your doctor.

Loss of height is one of the early signs of osteoporosis and is caused by a curvature or compression of the spine. The spine is made up of vertebrae and fractures of the vertebrae can cause the spine to curve forward, forcing you to stoop. This is called kyphosis, or commonly referred to as a dowager’s hump. The vertebrae in the spine are slowly collapsing and if untreated can result in fractures within a couple of years, which is known as the ‘domino effect’.

For many people, this stoop can cause constant pain as the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the back are being stretched and strained. Some people, however, experience no pain at all until there is a further fracture in the vertebrae. This is why it is important to talk to a medical professional if you have noticed a curve in your spine. A loss of height and a curved spine can also contribute to a higher risk of tripping or falling due to a change in a person’s centre of gravity with the head being in a forward position.

If you have concerns about a sudden or gradual loss of height in yourself, please have a chat with your GP about getting a bone density scan.

Osteoporosis Australia and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research jointly launched ‘Know Your Bones’ – an online fracture prevention initiative that asks Australians to get to know their bones as a first step to better bone health. An Australian-first bone health self-assessment tool, ‘Know Your Bones’, is designed to help you understand your risk of breaking a bone due to poor bone health. It is now available to all adults, including the 7.5 million Australians living with brittle bones. In the months since the launch, thousands of Australians have used ‘Know Your Bones’ to help understand their likelihood of breaking a bone, whether they have been previously diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, or not.

Don’t risk your independence. Continue to enjoy your healthy active lifestyle. Complete the Know Your Bones health assessment today – it only takes five minutes. Visit www.knowyourbones.org.au, take the test, print out the report and take it to your doctor to discuss your risk of fracture and a suitable action plan, if required.

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