Medicine and Health

At what age do our bodies stop growing?
Answered by Bambi Turner
  • Bambi Turner

    Bambi Turner

  1. The human body grows steadily from birth, and by the late teens the skeletal system has fully formed. Although you're unlikely to grow any taller after the age of 20, scientists have recently discovered that some bones never stop growing as you age [source: University of North Carolina].

    In a 2011 study, researchers at the University of North Carolina found that the human pelvis continues to widen from the ages of 20 to 79. This means that even if you watch your weight and maintain the same level of body fat, your waist size naturally increases over time because of changes in the underlying bone structure. On average, the pelvis widens 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) between ages 20 and 79, resulting in a 3-inch (7.62 cm) average increase in waist size [source: University of North Carolina].

    In 2008, researchers at Duke University revealed that just like the pelvis, the skull continues to grow and change throughout a person's lifetime. Not only does the skull grow larger, but the forehead shifts forward, bringing the cheekbones further back. This study has important implications for the field of plastic surgery, and suggests that adjustments to the underlying skeletal structure could have a much more dramatic impact on appearance than the traditional facelift [source: Duke University].

    Unfortunately, other bones within the body finish growing by the end of puberty. If you're unhappy with your height by the age of 20, Mother Nature is unlikely to offer much help, though modern science may be able to give you the boost you're looking for. Limb-lengthening surgeries require doctors to break bones in the legs, and then insert spacer rings in the spaces between the broken bones. By turning these rings, you can widen the gaps between the bones, which your body will eventually fill and repair. This type of surgery comes with a steep price, however. The New Jersey Institute of Technology reveals that one student who underwent this procedure in 2008 spent $275,000 and endured 6 months of significant pain to gain 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in height [source: Florida].

    But what about the oft-cited statistic that the ears and nose never stop growing? You can relax; just like most of the body, the ears and nose stop growing after puberty. Though they may seem to grow larger as you age, this is simply a gravity-inspired illusion. As the cartilage in the ears and nose breaks down, these parts may droop or sag, making them appear as if they're grown when they've really just shifted position somewhat [source: Leyner and Goldberg]. We also can thank gravity for another sign of aging -- varicose veins.

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