Asked by Heidi Kwon, Los Angeles
I am 16 and a student. I want to be tall, but I am nearly of the same height since I was 13 years old. What can I do to be taller? I'm serious.
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Thank you for your question, Heidi. While I do not know the particulars of your situation, I can tell you that many teens in my practice voice dissatisfaction with certain aspects of their bodies so you are definitely not alone. When it comes to physical features, height is one that is particularly difficult to change since your genetic background greatly predicts how tall you will ultimately become. Nutritional status can also affect one's adult height.
If you have concerns about your height, be sure to consult with your doctor. The first step will be to determine whether your height is normal, is delayed in progress, or is the result of a medical condition that prevents growth. Your physician will check your height, weight, and overall physical maturation. If, after plotting your growth on a standard chart (such as the ones found here ) or using a calculation to roughly determine your predicted height based on how tall your parents are (called "mid-parental height"), your height is found to be much lower than expected for your age or developmental stage, your doctor may suggest performing certain blood tests or X-rays.
Blood tests can determine whether a person is lacking hormones (such as thyroid or growth hormone) that are needed for growth or has a genetic problem that affects height. An X-ray of the hand and wrist can show how mature a person's bones are and help predict how much longer he or she will continue to grow. If a lack of growth hormone or very short stature is recognized before the bones stop growing, regular hormone injections may help a child reach a greater height by adulthood.
You mentioned that your height has not changed much in the last few years. If you refer again to standard growth charts, you'll find that height increases typically slow down significantly after about age 14, with an average increase of only 1 inch before ultimately stopping by about 20 years. On the other hand, teens who are "late bloomers" can have minimal height changes until they have a larger growth spurt around the time of their relatively late puberty. This condition is called constitutional growth delay, and these individuals experience their growth slow-down a few years later than their peers while still reaching a fairly normal adult height.
I hope you will talk with your doctor to see whether anything needs to be done to evaluate your growth. You may also find it helpful to talk with a trusted friend, relative, teacher or therapist if your height is making you unhappy. Finally, I encourage young people to focus on things they'd like to improve about themselves that they can potentially change (such as becoming a better student, musician or athlete) and try their best to be strong and healthy by eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, getting at least one hour of exercise daily, and avoiding harmful habits such as smoking cigarettes or using drugs. Good luck.
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