Sarcopenia is an age-related loss of muscle mass which subsequently leads to a loss of physical strength and loss of ability to perform daily activities, leading to frailty, disability and ultimately mortality. We start losing muscle mass from the age of 30, which then accelerates in our 50s onwards. Factors that accelerate sarcopenia include:
Can I stop it?
To completely stop muscle loss and physical decline is not possible, however, you can slow down the process significantly to maintain your health and independence. Studies show that maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity and exercise can prolong your muscle mass and physical strength enabling you to continue to perform your daily activities independently.
The exercises must be specific! A brisk walk will not suffice. Exercises that challenge your strength, balance and cardiovascular fitness are essential in your journey to healthy aging.
A study compared the cross-sectional MRI findings of the quadricep muscle in the thigh of a 40-year-old triathlete, a 74-year-old sedentary male, and a 70-year-old triathlete. As seen below, the quadricep muscles of the 40-year-old triathlete look like the muscles of the 70-year-old. Whereas the 74-year-old sedentary man has lost muscle mass and has developed excess fatty tissue. This evidence supports the significance of maintaining regular exercise throughout your aging process.
Diet also plays a very important role. An adequate intake of protein combined with resistance training has been shown to reduce the effects of sarcopenia.
Testosterone appears to be the central hormone involved in the development of sarcopenia. Testosterone and growth hormone play an important role in maintaining muscle mass and strength. Although these hormones will inevitably decrease as you age, a healthy diet, Vitamin D and an exercise program can assist with slowing the decline in these essential hormones.
What do I do?
Concerned you may be developing sarcopenia? Book in to see one of our physiotherapists who can assess you using a sarcopenia screening tool. Working in collaboration with the dietician and exercise physiologist, our team can help you reduce the effects of sarcopenia and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, enabling you to age well and continue to maintain your independence throughout the aging process.
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