Our bodies undergo many changes as we get older. One of the most significant is a decrease in muscle mass – a condition known as sarcopenia. When unaddressed, this condition can have serious consequences for older adults including increased risk of falls, reduced mobility, and decreased quality of life. In this blog post, we’ll explore what sarcopenia is, how it can impact senior health, and what you can do about it.
What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is characterized by the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs as we age. It typically begins at some point in our 30s, but can start to accelerate once we reach our 50s and 60s. The exact mechanisms that contribute to sarcopenia are not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to a combination of factors including changes in hormones, inflammation, and level of physical activity.
Sarcopenia can have several negative impacts on senior health. For one, it can increase the risk of falls and fractures, which can be especially dangerous for seniors. Additionally, sarcopenia can contribute to reduced mobility and independence by making it more difficult to perform activities of daily living, such as getting dressed or cooking.
Besides age, there are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development or acceleration of sarcopenia, such as gender, chronic illness (such as diabetes or heart disease), diet, and daily activity levels. Early signs of sarcopenia include feeling physically weaker over time, having more difficulty than usual lifting objects, becoming exhausted more easily from familiar tasks, and unexplained weight loss.
Lifestyle changes that can help with sarcopenia
While there is no cure for sarcopenia, there are a number of lifestyle changes that can help prevent or mitigate the condition. One of the most important steps seniors can take is to engage in regular exercise, including both aerobic and strength training activities. Low impact movements such as brisk walking, swimming, resistance band exercises, and bodyweight exercises (like squats) can all help to build and maintain muscle mass, as well as improve overall physical function.
Seniors should also focus on eating a balanced diet that is rich in protein and other nutrients that are important for muscle health such as vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Doctors recommend eating between 25-30 grams of protein per meal for older adults to maintain muscle tone. Taking HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate) supplements has also shown a lot of promise in preventing muscle loss in older adults – but you should consult your physician before adding it, or any other supplement, to your diet.
Finally, seniors should work with their healthcare providers to manage any conditions that may exacerbate sarcopenia such as chronic inflammation or type-2 diabetes. Your doctor is also a good source for additional guidance on managing muscle loss as you age.