Being short is a sensitive subject for many people because they are constantly reminded of it. Unfortunately, though, there is not much you can do to control how tall you ultimately will stand. Unless you suffer from a treatable medical condition, your adult height is determined based on your genes. In general, most children will reach an adult height of within 4 inches more than or less than the average height of their parents, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reports.
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How We Get Taller
The increase in a person's height occurs because of growth in the long bones of the skeleton. The long bones include most bones in your limbs. The long bones get longer through a process that involves plates or cartilage at the ends of the bones secreting new cells that develop into bone tissue.
When Growth Occurs
You get taller throughout your childhood and adolescence, but once adolescence is over nearly all your bones stop growing. Some bones--such as the jaw--grow throughout your life but at such a slow rate it is not noticeable. Obvious growth in height typically ceases at about the age of 18 in women and 21 in men. At this point, you are considered to have reached your adult height and you will not get any taller.
Several hormones contribute to your growth in height. When you are an infant and young child, growth hormone produced and secreted by the pituitary gland controls growth in height. When you enter puberty, sex hormones--including estrogen and testosterone--stimulate the growth spurt people typically experience at the onset of puberty. These same hormones also stop growth in the long bones at the end of adolescence.
Simply being short does not constitute a medical condition, but some people do have medical conditions that contribute to their short statures. These people are said to have dwarfism, or short stature that results from their genes or a medical condition. Most people with dwarfism stand between 2 feet, 8 inches and 4 feet, 10 inches, tall. In some cases, it can be caused by a genetic defect or gene mutations. Disorders involving growth and sex hormones and your body's cartilage also can cause dwarfism.
- "Human Anatomy and Physiology"; Elaine N. Marieb, RN and PhD, and Katja Hoehn, MD and PhD; 2010
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Diagnostic and Research Growth Center
- Mayo Clinic: Dwarfism