Height is one of the physical features that many people find attractive, enough that it might even influence whether you’ll be elected into office. But it’s usually determined by genetics and some other factors. So, why are Americans tall?
Americans aren’t so tall compared to other developed nations, but they are taller on average than those from developing nations. However, the US has height growth rate has been very low. Factors that determine height include genetics, socioeconomic conditions, nutrition, and access to healthcare.
However, height is more than just a physical characteristic. There are certain things worth knowing about height, including the likely health risks associated with your height. Here, we discuss what determines a person’s height and how tall Americans are.
How Tall Are Americans
Americans aren’t that tall especially compared to other nationalities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Americans were the tallest people in the world. But that has changed now. That record now belongs to the Netherlands. The average height of a Dutchman is 6 feet, while that of a woman is 5 feet 7 inches. In the US, the average height of a man is 5 feet 9 inches, while that of a woman is 5 feet 4 inches. However, Americans aren’t the shortest either, and they’re taller than people from sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The shortest people in the world come from Bolivia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
In the past 160 years, the Dutch have grown by 20cm on average, while Americans only grew by 6cm. This might be because most of those having kids in the Netherlands are tall men and average height women. In the US, it’s average-height men and short women. Today, American men are the 37th tallest while women are the 42nd tallest. In 1914, they were third and fourth tallest, respectively.
Factors Contributing to Height Growth
There are several factors that contribute to how tall a person gets. These include:
1. Access To Healthcare
Access to healthcare contributes immensely to the height of people in a country. Quality healthcare means that kids can get the best care during pregnancy, and from the time they’re born, this ensures they grow optimally. Other health factors such cleanliness of the water, sanitation, etc.
2. Socioeconomic Factors
The Low level of income inequality and a great social welfare system can also play a great role in ensuring that residents grow tall. The equality of income and social welfare makes it possible for almost every family to raise healthy kids with the best nutritional resources. This is what most developing countries are missing and why they usually have the shortest population on average. The economy can have significant effects on height.
The importance of nutrition to height can’t be overemphasized. Since, in most cases, it requires high incomes to afford the right food for nutrition, the tallest people usually come from developed countries with high incomes. For example, the Dutch diet includes dairy, which contributes to increased heights since it contains calcium necessary for bone growth. But in the case of Americans, even though their country has a high income, the height hasn’t been growing. Scientists believe this is due to not eating enough vegetables and fruits while consuming too much sugar and fat. Those who enjoy well-rounded diets as kids are more likely to become taller when they grow up. Such a diet should contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy.
4. Genetics And Hormones
Your genes determine 60 – 80% of your height, but that’s not all. There are environmental factors involved, and the most important is childhood nutrition. Genes can also cause gigantism or dwarfism. Gigantism occurs when a person grows extremely tall because of excessive growth hormones due to a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. Dwarfism, on the other hand, is the adult height at 4 feet 10 inches or less and can be due to genetic mutations that make bones shrink. Human growth hormones are also necessary for determining a person’s height, and lacking this hormone can stunt growth. But a study has discovered that giving HGH supplements can help normalize the height of unexplainably short children.
What To Know About Height?
There are several fascinating facts you should know about height. That includes:
1. Fastest Growth Rate Happens in The First Year
The fastest growth for a person usually happens in their fast year. Kids can add about ten inches to their height from birth to one year old. From that point onward, the height increases steadily even though not as rapidly and usually stops at adolescence. For girls, growth usually stops two to three years after their first period. But for boys, their height usually peaks in high school while some grow into their early 20s.
2. Height Fluctuates Throughout the Day
Contrary to what you may think, your height doesn’t remain at the same level throughout the day. There are slight variations due to compression of the discs in your spine from spending the whole day upright. Thus, you’re at your tallest when you wake up because the spine has decompressed. But you might be about a centimeter shorter at night. The difference is ever so slight that you won’t even notice.
3. Health Risks
The taller you are, the more at risk of cancer you’ll also be. This is what a study published in Lancet Oncology discovered. That particular study examined medical records of over a million British women between 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet 8 inches and above. It discovered that the tallest women had a 37% higher risk of developing cancer. This might be because they have more cells in their body or the levels of growth hormones. The result applies to men too. However, the risk isn’t that significant to cause any worry or concern.
However, short people are more at risk of heart disease. This is according to the European Heart Journal study. It discovered that people under 5 feet 3 inches have higher risks of suffering cardiovascular diseases than taller people. The risk increases by 13.5% for every 2.5 inches shorter the person is. Other studies found that poor socioeconomic status, which means poor nutrition and infection, may be responsible for heart diseases.
4. Humans Start Shrinking as They Age
Once you’ve reached your peak height, you can start becoming shorter after several years. This can start as early as 40 years, with about a half an inch decrease per decade. The spin discs are responsible for this shrinkage as they start to compress. This isn’t a serious issue, but osteoporosis might worsen it.
Americans are tall because they enjoy healthcare, high income, and good nutrition. But the fact that socioeconomic factors have been making all these things inaccessible also means that Americans aren’t the tallest in the world and have dropped when it comes to world height. On the other hand, weight is increasing faster in the US.