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May 17, 2018
Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

You have seen them, men in their late 60’s or 70’s who suddenly start
to appear as though their necks have disappeared.  Their heads rest
directly on their shoulders. Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New
York, is the latest high profile example of the phenomenon but there
are plenty of others. The discs between the vertebrae in the neck and
all along the spine start to compress and, as a result, you start to lose

By the time you are seventy, you will be about an inch and a half
shorter. Is there anything you can do to stay tall as you age. It turns
out, there is.

You Start to Shrink in Your Thirties

The changes in our spine in general and our upper neck spine happen
sooner than you think. In fact the changes start around when you are
still pretty young, at age 39.

In 2007, a team of scientists from Keio University in Japan conducted a
study of the ways in which our spine ages. They assembled 497
volunteers with an average age of 39 and studied how their spines
aged for the next 10 years up to age 49.

The changes in just a decade were striking. The researchers found a
progression of spinal degeneration in 8 out of 10 people (81.1%). The
degeneration affected 5 areas:

Progression of decrease in signal intensity of disc was observed in
59.6%. This change is associated with dehydration of the disc,
anterior compression of dura and spinal cord in 61.4%,
posterior disc protrusion  in 70.0%,
disc space narrowing  in 26.9%, and
foraminal stenosis  in 9.0%.

In addition, neck pain was experienced by 9.9%, shoulder stiffness by
30% and numbness in upper extremities 4.0% of the participants.

Stay Hydrated to Stay Tall

The reason your spine compresses can be traced to a loss of water in
the discs between the vertebrae.  The fluid in the discs is almost all
water encased in cartilage.

As you become dehydrated, there is less water available to replenish
the discs.  That is why it is so important to stay hydrated. This is not as
easy as it looks. As you age, the signal to your brain telling you that
you are thirsty doesn’t work as well. By the time you become aware
that you are thirsty, you are in fact already dehydrated.

So, how do you know if you are dehydrated if you cqn’t rely on your
awareness of being thirsty?

You should look out for

Deeply yellow urine
Dry mouth
Being tired or sleepier than usual
Skin dryness
Less urine output

Water Alone Will Not Hydrate You As Effectively as Eating Fruits and

Don’t rely only on drinking water to stay hydrated.  Experts now advise
you to get more of your water from vegetables and fruit. Eating your
water, as it’s called, leaves your body more deeply hydrated than
simply drinking water, for reasons not completely understood by

But a 2009 study from the University of Aberdeen Medical School
believes that certain fruit and vegetables, such as watermelon and
cucumbers, can hydrate you twice as well as glass of water. They
believe that the hydrating salts these fruits and vegetables contain are
the key. These hydrating salts are responsible for carrying as much as
96% of the water you intake into your bloodstream.

Stretch Daily to Decompress Your Neck as You Age

Stretching your spine helps to decompress it. The act of sitting,
carrying objects and even walking can compress your spine because
they make the spine act against gravity.

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