Although a few people may continue growing even in their early 20s, most adults cannot increase their height after age 21 if their growth plates close.
6 factors that determine your height
- Genetics: Your height is usually determined by genetics or the height of your parents. Studies conducted on fraternal twins have shown that if the parents are tall, it is more likely that the children will be tall as well. Generally, about 60%-80% of height is determined by genetics, while 20%-40% is determined by other factors such as nutrition and lifestyle.
- Nutrition: Nutrition can play a key role in determining height, as is visible in trends in height measured worldwide. A study has reported that children and adolescents who are malnourished may not achieve predicted heights. The same study highlighted the height difference between 1896 and 1996. With increased awareness and knowledge about nutrition, we see taller people today than 1,000 years ago.
- Sex: Women tend to be shorter than men. Girls hit puberty earlier than boys, meaning the ends of their growing bones fuse earlier. Moreover, hormonal differences in boys (such as higher testosterone levels) stimulate the bones to grow thicker and longer.
- Medical conditions: Medical conditions that can affect height include:
- Turner syndrome (genetic problems that occur in girls due to disrupted chromosome)
- Down syndrome (genetic disorder that cause poor growth)
- Achondroplasia (genetic bone disease)
- Cushing syndrome
- Precocious puberty
- Digestive tract diseases (which can cause malnutrition)
- Exercise: Exercise during childhood can promote the release of growth hormones that are responsible for increasing height and lead to better bone and muscle development.
- Medications: A few studies have shown that children who take medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to be marginally shorter than their peers. Other studies, however, have disproved this finding and stated that the child will likely catch up with their peers once the medications are stopped.
How does normal growth occur?
As you age, your bones increase in length and thickness due to the growth plates in the bone called epiphysis. During puberty, your epiphyses mature, and at the end of puberty, they fuse and stop growing. Growth is controlled by the growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen).
Growth stops in the following order:
- Hands and feet
- Arms and legs
Once the epiphyses fuse, you no longer grow.
Are there advantages to being taller?
Studies claim that being taller certainly has some advantages:
- Lower risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes: Studies have reported taller women who are physically active may have children with healthier birth weights.
- Lower risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases: Studies have reported that a person’s risk of heart disease increases about 13.5% for every 2.5 inches of height difference. That means a shorter person may be at a higher risk of heart disease than a tall person.
How to grow taller before 21
Although it is hard to increase your height as an adult, there are ways in which you can maximize your height during your teenage years:
- Good nutrition: Eating a balanced, healthy diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals is crucial for growth. One of the best ways to prevent nutritional deficiencies is to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein in your diet. Important minerals associated with growth and height include:
- Vitamin D
- Adequate sleep: Growth hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormones are typically released during sleep. Both are crucial for proper bone development. Sleep deprivation can suppress these hormones, thereby affecting your growth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recommended hours of sleep a day for different age groups are as follows:
- Ages 6-12: 9-12 hours a day
- Ages 13-8: 8-10 hours
- Regular exercise: Moderate physical activity, especially those that strengthen the core muscles, can have a positive effect on growth. However, overdoing physical training can negatively affect height.
How to look taller
If you are past your growing years and it is no longer possible to increase height after 21, there are ways you can look taller:
- Wear heels or inserts: Choose shoes with taller heels, or you can even place inserts in your shoes to make you look taller.
- Maintain good posture: Good posture will not only make your look taller but is also good for your health:
- Lose weight: Shedding excess pounds and toning up muscles can make you appear leaner and taller.
Ultimately, however, it’s important to remember that being tall or short is often determined by factors out of your control and it may be best to embrace yourself as you are.
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