Several different factors determine how big a person will grow. The most important one is heredity, the passing of physical traits from parents to children. When you began as a single fertilized cell, your mother and father each contributed half the genes—coded chemical information—needed for you to live and grow. These genes are responsible for your physical traits, like the color of your eyes and hair, how your body will be shaped, and how tall you will become. That is why children look a lot like their parents, or even their grandparents: they have inherited family characteristics that may have been passed on for several generations. If your parents are big or tall, chances are good that you will be big or tall, too. The average height of a woman in the United States is about 5 feet, 4 inches (1.6 meters), and the average height for an American man is 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters).
In spite of genetic coding, certain conditions can keep people from growing as large as their genes say they should. Bad nutrition keeps a body from reaching its maximum size. Poor health and disease do the same. That is why people who lived in generations before us, when food was sometimes scarce and health care was poor, were quite a bit smaller than we are today. Taking good care of your body, then, helps it become the best it can be.