Preventing Muscle Loss as We Age

As people age, their skeletal muscles start to decline,leading to a loss of independence in older people. This phenomenon is known as Sarcopenia, the New York Times reports.

Most people have probably heard of the saying, “use it or lose it” and hopefully, they’ve been following it. Most elderly people (at least those who are health conscious) think they are; they do physical activities daily, alternating between cycling, walking, and swimming. They do floor exercises for their backs daily, walk up and down many stairs to stay in shape, and tackle all sorts of physical tasks in and around the house.

The may hear from their younger friends that they’re in great shape compared to other people their age in America today. But despite all the exercise, they start to notice that they’re not as strong as they once were. Items that you could easily lift and carry now some like the most impossible task.

New York Times writer, Jane E. Brody was feeling just that until a visit with Marilyn Moffat, physical therapist, and professor at New York University, helped her understand why her body was starting to feel weaker. Like most people past the age of 50, she had a condition called sarcopenia. For some people, it starts as early as age 40 and without intervention, continues to get worse. You can lose as much as half of your muscle mass by age 70. For those wondering what happens, your fat and fibrous replaces the muscle making it look like well-marbled steak.

“Sarcopenia can be considered for muscle what osteoporosis is to bone,” Dr. John E. Morley, a geriatrician at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, wrote in the journal Family Practice. He noted that up to 13% of people in their 60s and as many as 50% of those in their 80s have sarcopenia.

“Sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults,”stated Dr. Jeremy D. Walston, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Very few practicing physicians notify their older patients to this condition so they can let them know how to reverse what is others an inevitable decline. It can seriously damage emotional and physical well-being, not to mention the ability to carry out regular activities. Sarcopenia has been linked to a number of chronic ailments, fatigue, falls, a worse insulin resistance, and sadly, death.

It is common among older people to see a decline in physical activities, but that is just one reason why sarcopenia happens. Other contributing factors include poor nutrition, chronic illness, hormonal changes, and body-wide inflammation.

There is a silver lining,however, because no matter how out of shape or old you are, you can restore much of the strength you lost. In his research, Dr.Moffat noted that the losses of sarcopenia could be reversed – even among 90-year-old nursing home residents and that there is medical literature as old as 30 years that describes the reversal process. All you need to do is act on it.


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