Capture the fracture: Have your height measured regularly
November is Osteoporosis Month. Our theme is Capture the Fracture. Since those who have had a fracture are at increased risk for another fracture, Osteoporosis Canada is working to “Capture the Fracture” and help make a patient’s first break their last.
It is normal to lose a little height as we get older… but too much height loss can mean that osteoporosis is causing bones to break in your spine, which is making you become shorter. This type of height loss is not normal. So how can you tell the difference between normal height loss and height loss due to osteoporosis?
Measure your height
Everyone over 50 years of age should have a height measurement annually. For those age 50 and over, measuring how tall you are once every year can allow you to keep track of height change. It is best to ask a healthcare provider to measure and record your height for you professionally, rather than doing it yourself. This provides the most accurate measurements.
Keep track of your height
- When I was a young adult, I was _____ tall.
- I had a more recent professionally measured height at the age of _____ and I was _____ tall.
- Today, I am _____ years old and my professionally measured height is _____ tall.
- Height loss since a recent measurement=(2)-(3)=_____. See below if you have lost 2 cm (3/4″) or more.
- Height loss since young adult = (1) – (3) = _____ . See below if you have lost 6 cm (2 1⁄2″) or more.
- If you have lost 2 cm or more (3⁄4″) in height, as measured by your healthcare provider, you may have a spine fracture.
- If you have lost 6 cm or more (21⁄2″) in height since you were a young adult, again, you may have a spine fracture.
Spine fractures are not the only reason people may lose height. Other causes of height loss include poor posture or arthritis. However, if you have lost height then you do need to be checked for the possibility of a broken bone in your back. Bone density tests are not designed to show bone fractures. To diagnose a bone fracture, what is needed is a regular X-ray of the thoracic and lumbar spine (the upper back and the lower back). Two thirds of spine fractures are painless so you may have had a spine fracture and not even know it. The only warning sign may be your loss of height. Talk to your doctor if you think you have lost some height.
With thanks to the Dartmouth Osteoporosis Multidisciplinary Education (DOME) Program