Age differences in height derived from cross-sectional studies can be the result of differential secular influences among the age cohorts. To determine the magnitude of height loss that accompanies aging, longitudinal studies are required. The authors studied 2,084 men and women aged 17-94 years enrolled from 1958 to 1993 in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, Baltimore, Maryland. On average, men's height was measured nine times during 15 years and women's height five times during 9 years. The rate of decrease in height was greater for women than for men. For both sexes, height loss began at about age 30 years and accelerated with increasing age. Cumulative height loss from age 30 to 70 years averaged about 3 cm for men and 5 cm for women; by age 80 years, it increased to 5 cm for men and 8 cm for women. This degree of height loss would account for an "artifactual" increase in body mass index of approximately 0.7 kg/m2 for men and 1.6 kg/m2 for women by age 70 years that increases to 1.4 and 2.6 kg/m2, respectively, by age 80 years. True height loss with aging must be taken into account when height (or indexes based on height) is used in physiologic or clinical studies.