Shrink to Death

Height loss occurs with age, but a drop of more than three centimeters correlates with an increase in illness and death, according to a 20-year survey of British men. The increase may result from mechanisms underlying bone loss, which reduces stature. Researchers have long known that osteoporosis affects mortality by compromising breathing and digestion, although the shrinkage in such cases tends to be at least six centimeters.

Ages of subjects, years: 60 to 79

Average height lost, centimeters: 1.67

Average weight change, kilograms: +3.14

Percent who lost at least 3 centimeters: 14.4

Weight change, kilograms: 0.2

Percent increase in death compared with those who shrank less than 1 centimeter: 64

When adjusted for health, smoking, weight loss and other factors: 45

Adjusted percent risk increase:

From cardiovascular disease: 39

From respiratory disease: 75

From other, noncancer causes: 227

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, December 11/25, 2006