One of the things that you have to contend to when growing older is the possibility of muscle loss. It can and will happen. So what do you have to do about it? Let’s try to find out more and see what we can do to make sure that we can prepare for muscle loss due to aging. After all, this could happen even to the best of us.
Here’s what we’re going to look into:
- What is muscle loss due to aging?
- How does aging affect it and what are the costs?
- What happens when you have muscle loss?
- What are you going to do to fight it?
Now let’s begin.
What Is Muscle Loss Due to Aging?
The exact term for muscle loss due to aging is Sarcopenia. According to Wikipedia, it is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass (0.5–1% loss per year after the age of 50), quality, and strength associated with aging. Most people begin to lose muscle mass after their 30th birthday, but this loss increases exponentially with age. This is also a condition of the aging process. The aging person tends to lose balance, his or her gait is changed and overall ability to perform tasks are affected by the loss of muscle mass and strength.
Causes and Effects. Sarcopenia is a disease that has multiple causes. The most common ones are the following:
- Neuromuscular Function Loss – This is usually caused by satellite cells. These are cells that are normally activated upon injury or exercise. The older someone gets, the satellite cells decrease in their function thus decreasing neuromuscular function.
- Skeletal Muscle Loss – As we grow older, the lack of regular physical activity, change in protein metabolism, a decrease in certain hormone productions affect the production of muscle.
- Genetics – Sedentary lifestyle that has been happening over generations has affected the way we live. It has also been adapted into our DNA and is passed down to each and everyone of us.
Aside from that here are some other causes:
- Decreasing ability to turn protein into energy
- Lower concentrations of hormones like growth hormones, testosterone, and insulin
- Reduction of nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscle to start movement
- Insufficient calorie or protein consumption
People within the age group of 65 and 80 are more likely to feel the effects of this disease. Even if this does not have any harmful impact on the health and or overall condition of the body, apart from muscle loss. It does have other kinds of effects:
- Conducting movements of the body are hindered because of decreased mobility – Flexibility is affected, and the range of motion is compromised when sarcopenia occurs. This happens the older we get.
- Limitations in doing daily tasks – With the loss of flexibility and range of motion, the tasks we were once used to is affected as well.
- The possibility of being bedridden because of disability of movement – In severe cases, the movement is extremely hindered, and people with this condition cannot move at all. It becomes a full-blown disability.
How Does Aging Affect It and What Are the Costs?
Here are some facts about Sarcopenia and the aging population.
- According to a study conducted in 2010 on Older Americans, the population of 65-year-olds has increased from 40 million in 2010 to 40 million in 2010. That is a 15% increase. It is projected to increase to 55 million in 2020. By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million people in this age group.
- Sarcopenia is observed to affect 30% of people over 60 years old. Thisis also seen in 50% of individuals aged over 80 years.
- Sarcopenia dramatically increases the risk of falling for the elderly. A large number of elderly individuals will experience this. Half the cases of accidental death among individuals age 65 and older are related to falls.
How much will it cost us?
- In the US alone, the estimated direct healthcare costs attributed to sarcopenia in 2– was $18.5 billion dollars. That’s about 1.5% of the total healthcare expenditures for the year. It is still expected to increase with the growing number of aging people.
- On the average, healthcare expenditures cost about $900 per person per year.
- People with sarcopenia have more visits to physicians. They also fill out more prescriptions for drugs or treatment. Aside from that, they present a great burden for the health care system. (Link)
Aside from the obvious implications for health care, sarcopenia is also associated with the following chronic health conditions:
- Muscle mass loss is also related to metabolic problems. This would include insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, and obesity.
- In America alone, it is projected that more than 30 million could have diabetes by 2030
- There would be a rise in the annual cost of spending for diabetes. It would be expected to increase from $113 billion to $336 billion between 2009 and 2034.
Why do we need to act on it?
- If 10% of the sarcopenic population is reduced, it will save $1.1 billion.
- No public health campaigns are directly aimed at reducing the prevalence of this condition.
- Even if muscle loss due to the advancing of age is inevitable, therapies and interventions that can halt or reverse these effects are present. These hold great promise and realistic possibilities.
- Treating this helps preserve the independence and physical function of the aging population. This enriches the quality of life of older individuals. It would also save spending billions in health care costs.
That is why this should be given importance. There should also be proper ways to acknowledge and treat the problems and effects that this condition can have. If not simply to help the elderly gain more independence but also tide over the rising costs of health care.
What Happens When You Have Muscle Loss?
So what happens when you get sarcopenia? The following are general symptoms associated with this condition
Walking and Movement Difficulties. When the large muscles of the legs and the buttocks become degenerated, there are prominent difficulties that become visible.
Muscle Fatigue. When muscle mass decreases, the workload is distributed with the rest of the surrounding muscles. This would make these muscled fatigued.
Diminishing Strength. Fibrosis occurs in sarcopenia. This means that muscle fibers are replaced with fat. Because of this, muscle metabolism experiences a great change. This results in a reduced level of strength.
Chronologically, it happens like this:
- Muscle Atrophy, decrease in the size of the muscle
- Reduction in muscle tissue quality
- Changes in muscle metabolism
- Oxidative stress
- Degeneration of the neuromuscular junction
- Progressive loss of muscle function and frailty
This is usually determined by two factors: initial muscle mass and the rate at which aging decreases muscle mass.
Of course, there are other signs and symptoms that you must consider.
- Reduced muscle strength
- Muscle imbalance
- Hormone imbalance
- Carbohydrate intolerance
- Reduced physical performance or disability
- Slow walking speed
- Poor balance
- Low vitamin D
- Difficulty doing tasks
- Association with other conditions
What Are You Going to Do to Fight It?
So what exactly are you going to do? First, you would have to do preventative measures to handle sarcopenia. Prevention is better than cure, and this will ensure that will suffer less from sarcopenia. You would have to prepare a proper course of management of the condition then. This would mean using measures that would help treat and manage sarcopenia like good life habits, exercise, and medication. Finally, a good diet is also needed to make sure that it would not exacerbate the effects of sarcopenia.
An active lifestyle is important for the prevention of sarcopenia, and even a host of other ailments and conditions. Another thing you have to consider is maintaining muscle mass. As we grow older the muscle also ages and its size and strength diminish as well. Aside from movement and mobility, it is also responsible for keeping the metabolic system intact, and maintaining muscle mass helps in protecting against metabolic and hormonal decline, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular.
It also enhances cognitive function and slows down the aging process.
Once muscle loss sets in, it is a sign that your health is in decline. Loss of muscle shows a decline of physical energy, a tendency to gain excess weight, enhanced vulnerability to disease, and accelerated aging. Finally, it also brings about a loss of independence that comes with the limitation of movement.
Preventing Sarcopenia involves a good amount of physical activity, nutrition, and taking in supplements
- Physical Activity. What is important is to have exercise activities that emphasize resistance training. This affects the neuromuscular system, protein synthesis, and hormones. You should also do aerobic exercises. This aids in increasing protein synthesis that will help maintain muscle mass.
- Nutrition. Adequate nutrition plays a major role in preventing sarcopenia. This means that protein is needed to be consumed based on your needs. Also, some food must be avoided.
- Supplements. It is also a good way to get creatine supplements to aid in muscle development.
Exercise is an important component of prevention and also in managing sarcopenia. One very good type of exercise is resistance training. The following are the benefits of resistance training:
- Fall prevention
- Improved bone density and reduced symptoms of osteoarthritis
- Increased protein synthesis in the muscle
- Increased IGF-1
- Increased lean body mass
- Improved endurance
- Increased strength
- Decreased depression
- Base in activities of daily living
- Improved quality of sleep
- Reduction of risk from type II diabetes
This is a recommendation for resistance training for sarcopenia management:
- Frequency. There should be 2-3 days per week of resistance training. Each muscle group should be exercised in 1-2 sets of 8-15 repetitions. This program may need to last at least 12 weeks to see significant improvement in the older population.
- Intensity. An intensity scale of 1-10, with 1 being no effort and 10 being extremely difficult. This is known as the modified Borg scale. An intensity of 7-8 should be the target
- Equipment. Gym memberships can be done. Using circuit machines are also encouraged. Some equipment like light free weights, stability balls, and exercise bands can be used. Also, bodyweight exercises along with yoga or Pilates can be done.
Diet and Medication
In preventing and taking care of sarcopenia, protein and energy intake are key elements in a nutrition perspective.
Protein. Protein is of primary importance. At least 20-30 percent of the diet has to be protein. For example, if you’re eating 1,600 calories a day, protein needs might average 80 to 120 grams. Or according to the USDA, this is based on the body weight and not lean muscle mass. This would mean 0.8 grams of dietary protein per kilogram of body weight.
Vitamin D. When the level of vitamin D is depleted lower levels of muscle strength is seen. Thus vitamin D supplementation is needed and should be done.
Hormone and Drug Therapies. The following treatments can be done as therapies for sarcopenia:
- Urocortin. This can prevent muscle atrophy. It is also used for building muscle mass in humans.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy. This can increase lean body mass, reduce abdominal fat in the short term, and prevent bone loss.
- Testosterone supplements
- Growth hormone supplements
- Medication for treatment of metabolic syndrome
Knowing all of this information can help turn the tide caused by sarcopenia. In doing so, you increase your knowledge so that you can prevent, manage, and face sarcopenia. Time to get cracking.