Sarcopenia refers to the muscle loss that is associated with the process of aging. Sarcopenia typically leads to a reduction in physical strength as well as mobility. More severe cases can result in extreme frailty and even disability.
Most adult humans tend to reach their peak physical strength between the ages of 35 and 40. After the age of 40, muscle mass starts to decline. This trend continues into old age and can have detrimental effects on the lives of older adults.
How can sarcopenia be slowed down or effectively managed?
Research shows that after reaching the age of 30, people that lead a sedentary lifestyle can lose anywhere from 3% to 5% of muscle per decade. Active individuals will also experience muscle loss as the natural effects of aging continue to take their toll, just not at such a high rate.
While there is no way to outright stop the decline in muscle mass and strength as we get older, there certainly ways to manage it.
Symptoms of Sarcopenia
The signs and symptoms of sarcopenia will vary based on the severity of the case and other physical factors. Some of the recognizable symptoms of sarcopenia include:
- Reduced muscle mass
- Frailty or feebleness
- Poor balance or stability
- Lack of flexibility
- Low stamina and endurance
- Difficulty going up and down stairs
As muscle mass and strength continue to decline, the results can be quite serious. It increases the risk of injury from falls and can directly impede the ability to lead an independent lifestyle.
Causes of Sarcopenia
Old age is definitely a heavily contributing factor for sarcopenia, but there are generally other factors at play as well, such as:
- Unhealthy diet
- Inactive lifestyle
- Hormone imbalance
One element that can lead to older adults developing sarcopenia is poor nutrition. A diet lacking in protein, vitamins, and minerals can be damaging for seniors. Preserving muscle mass is contingent on providing the body with the essential nutrients it needs. Diets relying heavily on processed foods can have even further damaging effects. Foods high sugar and fat can lead to a variety of health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and stroke.
Many seniors are less active as they get older. Physical activity in general becomes more strenuous, making it an unappealing endeavor. An increasingly inactive lifestyle can open a gateway to other health issues like social isolation and depression.
Engaging in regular physical exercise is critical for maintaining muscle mass and mobility. Even low impact activities like walking and stretching can be extremely beneficial.
Another factor that can contribute to sarcopenia is an imbalance of hormones in the body. Hormones like Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Testosterone, and estradiol, are all produced in lower amounts by the body as we age. These hormones all affect the body’s ability to produce and maintain muscle mass.
Treatment and Prevention
Since Sarcopenia is a progressive condition, it is crucial to take preventative steps to combat it before it gets worse. Some approaches that can be used to prevent and treat Sarcopenia are:
- Protein and nutrient-rich diet
- Regular strengthening exercises
- Engage in a healthy lifestyle
Protein and Nutrient-Rich Diet
Sufficient protein intake is integral to building and preserving healthy muscle tissue. At the very least seniors should be eating 50 grams of protein every day.
Older adults with sarcopenia should be eating more protein, it is recommended to consume roughly 1.5 grams of protein for each kilogram you weigh. To figure out your magic number, you can take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.45 to give you your weight in kgs. Multiply your weight in kgs by 1.5 to figure out how many grams of protein you should be consuming daily. Foods rich in protein include meat, eggs, lentils, beans, and dairy.
Your daily essential nutrients can be acquired by eating a regular diet of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Regular Strengthening Exercises
Eating sufficient amounts of protein to build and repair muscles is ineffectual if it is not accompanied by regular physical exercise. Resistance exercises are particularly effective in strengthening the muscles. Resistance training involves using your own bodyweight to provide counteraction against the actions of your limbs to build strength and endurance.
The pairing of a healthy diet and exercise is crucial. Engaging in one without the other is counterproductive.
Engage in a Healthy Lifestyle
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is fundamental in avoiding sarcopenia. It is important to participate in hearty activities like exercise and a balanced diet but is also dependant on what you don’t do. Try to avoid unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol abuse.