Possible Osteoporosis Indicator: Your Height

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

As we get older, many of us get shorter. While it's a natural process, researchers have discovered the more height you lose, the more risk you have of developing osteoporosis in the hip.

Woodworker Bill Cox has osteoporosis in the hip, a condition that makes his bones dangerously brittle. So even something as simple as going up and down the stairs can be a challenge.

Cox says, "They told me I had the bones of an 80-year-old, which was a pretty good shock to me because I was only 59 or 58."

Doctors say age doesn't matter, anyone can get osteoporosis. But without extensive testing, is there a simple way to tell just who is at risk?

Geriatrics Dr. Seth Kantor says there is. "The answer we found in our study was yes, height loss. Height loss predicts bone density at the hip."

Dr. Kantor of the Ohio State University Medical Center looked at the records of more than 2000 patients and noticed a simple but surprising trend. He found that a loss of one inch in height meant there was no increased risk for osteoporosis at the hip. But if a patient lost two to three inches in height, their risk increased by four times. And if a patient lost more than three inches, their risk increased ten times.He tells us, "Their height is not routinely measured and what this study, simply put suggests, is that it ought to be. At least perhaps at the time of their annual physical or they're going to their gynecologist's office at the time of their annual checkup."

Osteoporosis at the hip often leads to hip fractures which are a serious problem. About 1000 people break their hips every day in this country. And half of them will either die or require nursing home care. That's why patients like Bill need to know the risk before something happens to them.

And keeping track of how tall he is, might just be a simple way to do that.

Dr. Kantor recommends asking your doctor to keep track of your height consistently. And he says women should get bone density screenings beginning at menopause. Men should start getting tested in their fifties.