Genetics is the primary factor that determines your adult height. While it's not possible to grow taller once you pass puberty, a number of factors come into play. Studies show that height effects many aspects of one person's life including dating, financial stature, self esteem, mental well being and much more. If you still want to be taller once you reach adulthood, you have the option of height lengthening surgery.
Factors That Affect Height
If everyone else in your family is tall – particularly your close relatives like parents and grandparents – odds are higher that you will inherit the genes for height. However, even with the genetic advantage, you won't attain your full stature without a healthy diet that includes required vitamins and minerals. Your body must secrete the proper amount of growth hormone as well. If this is a problem, doctors can prescribe growth hormone. Low thyroid levels, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and rickets are other reasons you might not attain your genetically programmed height.
Puberty and Height
Puberty is a period when lots of changes occur in the human body. One of the most obvious is the typical growth spurt. For girls, that typically comes between the ages of 10 and 14. Boys spurt up later, usually from age 14 to 16. Some teens have their full height – but not full muscular development – by age 15. Others may have a late growth spurt and not reach their full height until their late teens. Once puberty is over, you will not grow taller.
Why Does Height Matter?
Just as physical attractiveness has an effect on how people perceive and treat you, height makes a difference. Children who are shorter are more likely to be bullied. Research shows tall men and women typically date more and report being happier. Men who are taller are more likely to attain higher education levels. Taller men also tend to earn more. Both men and women prefer that the man be the taller partner in a relationship.
Your Height and Depression
For those who are much shorter than average, the emotional aspects of height can affect self esteem and mental health. This can start in childhood, with bullying and social isolation. Older adults may become actively depressed and even suicidal. Research on members of the military – which has specific height and size requirements – showed that both those who were much taller or shorter than average were more prone to depression. If you are seriously depressed or suicidal, it's critical to seek help.
Height Lengthening Surgery
Although you can't actually grow taller once you pass puberty, you can become taller through height lengthening surgery. Through a minimally invasive procedure in which a special adjustable metal rod is inserted into the bones of the legs, you can gain as much as six inches in height. The surgery does not have definitive age limits, although you must have stopped growing – your bones and joints must be fully developed. The youngest age is around 16 and some patients as old as 60 have had the surgery.
Who Qualifies for Surgery?
Height lengthening is an elective procedure. Most surgeons recommend the procedure for those who are considerably shorter than the average – less than 5 feet 9 inches for men and 5 feet 4 inches for women. You should be in good health. However, the presence of some medical conditions doesn't automatically mean you can't have the surgery – it may mean more careful preparation and care are necessary. It's best if you are not a smoker, as nicotine affects circulation and healing. If you have bone diseases or a bone infection, you may not be a candidate. Each case is evaluated individually.
How Does the Surgery Work?
Height lengthening surgery takes advantage of the bones' innate healing capabilities. If you break a bone, the body heals it, forming a “scar” known as a callus. The metal device inserted into the bones – usually the thigh, although lower legs bones can also be used – puts tension on the bone because it is very gradually adjusted every day. The body automatically fills in the gap with new bone, and new blood vessels, muscle and nerve tissue grow as well. Once the healing is complete, the device is removed.
No matter what your genetic heritage is in the matter of height, it is not possible to grow taller after your growth plates have fused– but it is possible to become taller. Height lengthening surgery can truly make a difference in your appearance, self- esteem and life. Contact a qualified orthopedic surgeon for an assessment.