Advertisement

The Arm Span to Height Relationship and Its Health Implications

  • Maw Pin Tan
  • Sushil K. Bansal
Chapter

Abstract

The Roman architect, Vitruvius, had noted in the first century BC that the arm span closely approximated to height. This relationship has been exploited by medical science by using arm span to estimate height in situations where height measurement is not possible. This can be done by directly substituting height with arm span, a fixed ratio, or specific regression equations. It has also been noted that height decreases with increasing age due to physiological changes, degenerative changes and osteoporosis, while the arm span remains unchanged. The arm span–height difference (AHD) or arm span to height ratio (AHR) can therefore be used as a marker for age-related loss of height. Several studies have also investigated AHD as a predictor for osteoporosis-related vertebral fracture, due to the association of vertebral fractures with height loss. These studies have however yielded conflicting results, probably due to the lack of an agreed definition for vertebral fractures. A recent study demonstrated that AHR is inversely correlated with lung airflow volumes measured with spirometry, and directly correlated with severity of shortness of breath. By using AHR as a quantitative index for loss of height, the authors were able to demonstrate that loss of height is associated with breathing difficulties. The reduction in height with ageing may also result in underestimation of the severity of lung airflow problems and nutritional problems. Involving arm span measurements in the calculation of predicted lung airflow volumes and body mass index may potentially be the solution to overcoming this problem.

Keywords

Vertebral Fracture Height Measurement Height Ratio Vertebral Deformity Height Loss 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Abbreviations

AHD

Arm span to height difference

AHR

Arm span to height ratio

BMD

Bone mineral density

BMI

Body mass index

FEV1

Forced expiratory volume in 1 min

FVC

Forced vital capacity

NYHA

New York Heart Association

References

  1. Abe K, Tamaki J, Kadowaki E, Sato Y, Morita A, Komatsu M, Takeuchi S, Kajita E, Iki M, Fukui Osteoporosis C. Use of anthropometric indicators in screening for undiagnosed vertebral fractures: a cross-sectional analysis of the Fukui Osteoporosis Cohort (FOC) study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2008;9:157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aggarwal AN, Gupta D, Jindal SK. Interpreting spirometric data: impact of substitution of arm span for standing height in adults from North India. Chest. 1999;115:557–62.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen SC. The relation between height, armspan and forced expiratory volume in elderly women. Age Ageing. 1989;18:113–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bassey EJ. Demi-span as a measure of skeletal size. Ann Hum Biol. 1986;13:499–502.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Harrison RA, Siminoski K, Vethanayagam D, Majumdar SR. Osteoporosis-related kyphosis and impairments in pulmonary function: a systematic review. J Bone Miner Res. 2007;22:447–57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hepper NG, Black LF, Fowler WS. Relationships of lung volume to height and arm span in normal subjects and in patients with spinal deformity. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1965;91:356–62.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Hibbert ME, Lanigan A, Raven J, Phelan PD. Relation of armspan to height and the prediction of lung function. Thorax. 1988;43:657–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hickson M, Frost G. A comparison of three methods for estimating height in the acutely ill elderly population. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2003;16:13–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hirani V, Mindell J. A comparison of measured height and demi-span equivalent height in the assessment of body mass index among people aged 65 years and over in England. Age Ageing. 2008;37:311–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Leech JA, Dulberg C, Kellie S, Pattee L, Gay J. Relationship of lung function to severity of osteoporosis in women. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1990;141:68–71.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Linderholm H, Lindgren U. Prediction of spirometric values in patients with scoliosis. Acta Orthopaedica Scand. 1978;49:469–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. O’neill TW, Felsenberg D, Varlow J, Cooper C, Kanis JA, Silman AJ. The prevalence of vertebral deformity in european men and women: the European Vertebral Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Mine Res. 1996;11:1010–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Parker JM, Dillard TA, Phillips YY. Arm span-height relationships in patients referred for spirometry. Am J Respir Critical Care Med. 1996;154:533–6.Google Scholar
  14. Siminoski K, Warshawski RS, Jen H, Lee K. The accuracy of historical height loss for the detection of vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2006;17:290–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sorkin JD, Muller DC, Andres R. Longitudinal change in height of men and women: implications for interpretation of the body mass index: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Am J Epidemiol. 1999;150:969–77.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tan MP, Wynn NN, Umerov M, Henderson A, Gillham A, Junejo S, Bansal SK. Arm span to height ratio is related to severity of dyspnea, reduced spirometry volumes, and right heart strain. Chest. 2009;135:448–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Twiss JJ, Dillon AL, Konfrst JM, Stauffer J, Paulman A. The relationship of actual height loss with health-seeking behaviors and risk factors in perimenopausal and menopausal women. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2002;14:131–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Uzunca K, Birtane M, Zateri C. Arm span-height difference is not an indicator of osteoporosis or associated vertebral deformity in postmenopausal women. Int J Clin Pract. 2008;62:157–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Verhaar HJ, Koele JJ, Neijzen T, Dessens JA, Duursma SA. Are arm span measurements useful in the prediction of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women? Osteoporos Int. 1998;8:174–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Versluis RG, Petri H, Van De Ven CM, Scholtes AB, Broerse ER, Springer MP, Papapoulos SE. Usefulness of armspan and height comparison in detecting vertebral deformities in women. Osteoporos Int. 1999;9:129–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang X-F, Duan Y, Henry M, Kim B-T, Seeman E. Body segment lengths and arm span in healthy men and women and patients with vertebral fractures. Osteoporos Int. 2004;15:43–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

Personalised recommendations