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Wish You Were Taller? Get Educated!

Even if you didn't eat your veggies or drink your milk as a child, your eventual height as an adult is still in your hands.

Most of us "shrink" a bit as we age, due to an increase in body fat and decrease in bone mass. But a decrease in height can be further exacerbated by certain kinds of arthritis, inflammation of spine joints or osteoporosis. Studies have shown that these conditions are associated with lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and smoking.

Using data from a new survey of over 17,000 adults, beginning at age 45, researchers learned that lifestyle choices we make in adulthood, and not just our genetic inheritances, influence how tall we will be as adults and how much shorter we'll eventually get as we age.

Economist John Strauss says, "The evidence shows that it is not only early-life events that are associated with how we age, but health decisions in later life as well."

One reason this is important is that researchers ALSO discovered a link between how well the aging brain functions and how tall we are in later life. People who had lost more height were also much more likely to perform poorly on standard tests of cognitive health such as short-term memory, ability to perform basic arithmetic and awareness of the date.

The researchers found that urban dwellers were found to have had much less height loss than people in rural areas in China, where there has been significant migration to urban areas in the last few decades.

In addition, having completed primary school, rather than being illiterate, was associated with less height shrinkage in men. Completing high school meant even less shrinkage. For women, having completed primary school was the key to being taller in old age.

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