Is muscle loss a natural part of the aging process? A decline in muscle mass and muscle strength can also signify sarcopenia, a serious health issue for some people. This condition can make it more difficult for them to conduct daily activities such as walking, and they are at a higher risk of falling and getting hurt.
Sarcopenia is caused by several reasons, such as not exercising enough. It is easily preventable by working out regularly, strength training, some supplements and can be treated to reverse muscle loss.
What is sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by a loss of muscular mass. People suffering from this condition also experience diminished muscle strength and have difficulties when walking or gripping items. Aging is usually the main cause of muscle loss.
Muscle mass decreases about 3-8% every decade after you reached the age of 30 and getting worse after the age of 60. Decreased growth hormone levels are closely associated with sarcopenia in adults. In such cases, doctors can prescribe HGH therapy for the prevention of the age-related decline in muscle strength.
Sarcopenia affects 6-15% of all adults aged 65 and over. Despite being commonly associated with the elderly, it can also affect the young. People with inflammatory illnesses, for example, are often more likely to develop sarcopenia.
What problems can sarcopenia cause?
Apart from just wasting the body’s muscles, sarcopenia also causes problems both mentally and physically for affected people. It raises the risk of external injuries due to falling, which causes the affected people to fracture their bones and sometimes get disabled.
Over the years, patients with sarcopenia have reported having experienced the following effects due to their condition:
- Problems with standing for long
- Raised risk of falls and fractures
- Reduced walking speeds
- Fatigue with muscle and joint pains
- Difficulty in performing daily routine
These are just a few challenges that sarcopenia patients face in addition to their condition. As they grow older, they start to depend more and more on other people to meet their physical needs.
Their condition affects their physical stature, thus making them unable to accomplish tasks such as showering or cleaning their own homes. Due to the mental and physical stress from sarcopenia, many patients experience a shorter life expectancy.
How to get a proper diagnosis of sarcopenia
The best and fastest way to diagnose this condition is by paying a visit to your doctor. He or she will conduct several physical tests such as grip strength to determine muscle strength, X-rays to determine your body’s muscle mass, and speed tests to measure your mobility, especially when walking or going up a flight of stairs.
Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may recommend diets and tips on how to prevent the disease or how to treat it.
Can sarcopenia be prevented?
Genetics, diet, physical activity, chronic illness and hormonal changes have a major role in determining your chances of getting sarcopenia. Some studies show that 30% of cases of sarcopenia in adults can be explained by genetic factors.
However, this does not mean the condition can’t be prevented. Here are some ways you can prevent sarcopenia.
- Increase your physical activity. One of the easiest ways of preventing sarcopenia is by getting enough physical activity. Exercising frequently helps build muscle mass and muscle strength, thus reducing the chances of getting sarcopenia. Doing workouts such as aerobics and resistance training greatly improves your muscle strength, thus reducing your chances of getting sarcopenia.
- Change to a healthy lifestyle. Bad habits like drinking alcohol or smoking affect your overall health and can lead to diseases that may, in turn, cause sarcopenia. If you want to age gracefully with good health, the earlier you quit bad habits, the lower your chances of getting sarcopenia.
- Get a balanced diet. Another way to prevent this condition is by watching what you eat. Eating protein-rich foods will help you build more muscle as you grow. Eating balanced diets combined with good exercise can greatly reduce your chances of getting sarcopenia.
Is there a treatment for sarcopenia?
Currently, there are no official treatments for sarcopenia, patients have to rely on routines and activities that aid in building muscle to cope with the disease. Here are some options that might help with the condition.
- Hormone therapy. Human growth hormone replacement therapy may be an effective way of maintaining and enhancing weight in malnourished older individuals. Growth hormone is known as an anabolic agent which provides improvements in muscle mass and strength for adults with hormone deficiency.
- Get enough nutrients. Nutrition plays a big role in treating sarcopenia, as you require foods rich in vitamin D and proteins to build up muscles. Including foods such as pork, seafood, eggs, soy foods, and nuts in your regular diet can help you gain a few pounds in muscle.
Healthy eating, combined with food supplements and regular exercise, can get you well on your way to recovery from sarcopenia.
- Resistance training. This is a workout technique that patients with sarcopenia can perform to help them in building muscle strength. Using equipment such as resistance bands and weights, you can slowly build up your resistance, which in turn increases your strength over time.
These exercises enable people with sarcopenia to perform certain tasks such as walking or going up a flight of stairs much faster and easier, allowing them to depend on themselves to survive.