Healthy Living

What is Sarcopenia?

What is Sarcopenia?

If you think aging is all about wrinkled skin, thinning hair, a receding hair line, loss of teeth, and a stooping posture, you are mistaken. There are many changes within one's body that are often neglected or left unnoticed. One such change is the loss of muscle mass and function in the body that usually starts after an individual turns 30-years-old. This loss of muscle mass is referred to as sarcopenia with aging. About 5% of the muscle mass will be lost in 10 years, particularly in people who are not physically very active. Muscle loss is true in people who are physically active also but at a lesser rate.

Age-related sarcopenia increases by about 75 years. In some people, this may happen at an enhanced rate between 60-years-old and 70-years-old. It is this muscle loss that results in the stooped posture, slow movements, loss of coordination, and increased risk of fractures in elderly people.

Sarcopenia is caused by several factors like environmental conditions and health issues. With advanced age, the most common causes of muscle loss are deficiency of certain proteins, reduction in hormone concentrations and restructuring of the motor unit in the body. All the above-said factors work in unison resulting in the muscle loss that affects mobility and functioning of the person. Reduction in the intake of food also adds to the causes affecting the individual’s ability to sustain the muscles.

The most common symptoms of sarcopenia include weakness of muscles and loss of stamina. This further has direct and indirect effects on the body. Weakness of muscles affects the amount of physical activity one can engage in while decreased physical activity causes further muscle loss.

How can one prevent muscle loss due to aging? As mentioned earlier, people who are physically inactive will have enhanced loss of muscles with age. Thus exercise is the most effective preventive measure for this condition. Resistance training is found to be very effective in improving muscle strength and endurance. Moreover, resistance training is also found to be helpful in improving the levels of hormones in the blood and also synthesis of proteins. One has to be very careful with the frequency and intensity of strength training to get maximum benefits from the exercises.

Certain medications are also found to be useful in treating this condition, including hormone replacement therapy and Urocortin II, a peptide that prevents muscle degeneration and improves muscle growth. Other options, like testosterone supplements and drugs for treatment of metabolic syndrome, are also being studied. But in any case, the first option would be resistance training, as all other methods would just complicate the treatment.