Being a polygenic trait, a person’s height is determined by genes to a significant extent. Apart from the genetic factors, height is also related to growth factor. It is a common belief that height gain halts when a person enters adulthood as the human body loses its natural ability to grow and develop.
The age of 18 is the transition stage between childhood and adulthood. During adolescent period, several hormonal changes take place within the human body. It indeed is good news that an individual can grow 2 to 6 inches taller even after turning 18. Scientists have discovered that the human body is capable to further grow and develop. Therefore, there is a possibility to increase height with some external help.
It is very important to know about the normal human growth process before even delving into the methods of increasing height.
A baby measures about 20 inches at birth and will grow 10 inches to become 30 inches in one year. At two years, the child will be about 35 inches tall. From two to twelve years, the child will grow up to 2 to 2 and half inches every year. The growth spurt that happens in adolescents starts at eleven years for girls and thirteen years for boys. The pubertal growth lasts for two years and it is followed by sexual development. The hormones secreted during adolescence affects the growth to a great extent. The growth rate slows down around 16-18 years. This happens when the growing ends of the bones fuse.
Now, what does bone fusing mean? There is an epiphyseal plate at the end of each bone. Epiphyseal plate is a hyaline cartilage that is found in children and adolescents. In adults, the epiphyseal plate is replaced by an epiphyseal line since growth has stopped. Endochondral ossification is responsible for bone development from cartilage and longitudinal growth of long bones from epiphyseal plate. There is constant cell division by mitosis in the epiphyseal plate. The daughter cells stack faces the epiphyseal plate and the old cells push towards diaphysis.
After chondrocytes in the epiphyseal plate degenerate, osteoblasts ossify the remains and the new bone is formed. In adolescents, the rise in the levels of estrogen triggers increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) of chondrocytes in the epiphyseal plate.
The depletion chondrocytes due to apoptosis leads to less ossification and thus the growth slows down. Finally, the growth stops and the epiphyseal cartilage are replaced by a bone leaving behind a tiny epiphyseal scar which disappears. So once the person becomes an adult, the only way to increase height is by a process called distraction osteogenesis.
The height of adults depends on genes, the start of puberty and the duration and growth spurt during puberty.
Abnormal Growth Patterns and Reasons:
Sometimes there is variation in the growth pattern. Some children are taller than their age and some are shorter. Parents are always worried about their children’s growth. So for a better understanding, here are some reasons why abnormal growth takes place.
a. Poor Nutrition and System Dysfunction:
Nutritional deficiencies are a reason behind poor growth. A balanced diet with right amount of protein, calcium and calories is essential for holistic body growth. Due to intestinal diseases there is malabsorption of nutrients and this leads to nutritional deficiency and stunted growth. However, once the intestinal disorder is treated the child can grow again.
Diseases affecting the heart, lung and kidneys due to lack of nutrients and toxic buildup in the body can result in stunted growth.Children with diabetes also have growth failure if the blood sugar is not controlled. Sometimes, severe stress and emotional trauma can also affect growth.
b. Bone Disorders:
One reason for short height can be due to abnormal formation and growth of cartilage and bone. Children suffering from skeletal dysplasia or chondrodystrophy have short stature and abnormal body proportion. The causes for chondrodystrophy are not known and more research is going on to prove whether it happens due to genetic reasons or it is a result of biochemical reactions inside the body. The specific type of chondrodystrophy has to be identified using bone x-rays and physical examination.
c. Intrauterine Growth Retardation:
Some infants are small at birth, especially, if they happen to be premature. Some babies are small in size and have low birth weight than their gestational age. This is because the baby didn’t grow as much it should have inside the womb; this condition is called intrauterine growth retardation.
There are many causes behind this intrauterine growth retardation, some are not identified and thus it is difficult to treat this condition and the child stays short throughout his or her life. The growth retardation can happen due to problem in the placenta, which supplies nutrients and oxygen to the baby. It can be due to viral infection like measles during pregnancy that affects the growth of the child.
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