Sarcopenia, or muscle loss as it’s also known, is a common problem for most people over 50. Although it can significantly affect your quality of life, there are many actions you can take in order to prevent it from occurring. Sarcopenia is definitely related to aging, but it is preventable with a healthy diet and specific exercises. Today we’re going to show you the main causes of sarcopenia and how to defeat this problem.
What is sarcopenia?
The term sarcopenia means “lack of flesh” and is a condition which occurs due to muscle degeneration that is common in people over 50. After the middle ages, people usually lose 3% of their muscle strength per year, which limits their movement and routine. However, sarcopenia can also lead to shorter longevity and significantly affect your quality of life.
The condition is usually caused by an imbalance between muscle cell growth and muscle teardown signals. This cycle is accelerated in people over 50, and usually results in muscle loss.
4 factors that accelerate muscle loss
Not using your muscles is one of the main factors for sarcopenia and leads to accelerated muscle loss and weakness. Immobilization after injuries or surgery can also accelerate the development of the condition. In order to prevent it, you should stay physically active and fit, and we don’t mean by hitting the gym every day. Simple walks and regular physical activity such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help keep your muscles in shape and prevent sarcopenia.
A diet that lacks specific nutrients and protein can lead to loss of muscle. This kind of diet has become much more common in recent times and besides the muscle loss, it can also lead to oral and swallowing problems. In order to prevent sarcopenia, we suggest consuming up to 30 gr. of protein per meal.
Inflammation is a normal immune response of the body in cases of injuries and has the responsibility of rebuilding the damaged cells. However, chronic and long-term diseases can lead to chronic inflammation which can disrupt the normal cycle of muscle teardown and buildup and cause muscle loss. Rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, lupus, ulcerative colitis, burns and tuberculosis can all lead to chronic inflammation, which may cause sarcopenia as well.
Stress is your worst enemy. It has been associated with numerous diseases and conditions including sarcopenia, and can significantly affect your health. In order to prevent possible health problems caused by stress, you need to learn how to relax.
How to diagnose sarcopenia?
The main sign of sarcopenia is diminished muscle strength. The most common sarcopenia symptoms include feeling physically inferior than before and having problems lifting light objects. In general, doctors use a hang-grip test to determine if you’re suffering from muscle loss and sarcopenia. Other signs of the condition include exhaustion, less interest in being active and sudden weight loss. However, as all these symptoms may indicate other diseases and conditions, you should visit a doctor who can identify what the real problem is.
The good news is that you can reverse the muscle loss and stop the progression of the disease with a few simple exercises and lifestyle changes. Here are the best exercises against sarcopenia:
Resistance training such as weightlifting, pulling resistance bands or moving against gravity will strengthen your muscles and fight the onset of the condition. Resistance training will also boost the production of growth-promoting hormones which will make the muscle cells grow and repair themselves. Due to this process, resistance exercise is the best way of increasing muscle mass. According to one study, people aged 65-94 can benefit from these exercises by performing them 3 times a week.
Cardio exercises which increase your heart rate such as aerobics and endurance training can control the muscle loss and sarcopenia as well. Cardio combined with resistance and flexibility training works even better against sarcopenia. Experts say that you should start swimming, cycling or jogging for 15 minutes a day 5 times a week, and gradually increasing the duration of the exercise to 45 minutes month by month during the next year.
Even simple things such as walking have been known to prevent sarcopenia. According to a Japanese study, people over 65 who walk 30 minutes a day for 6 months can increase their muscle mass and prevent the onset of the condition. The subjects were encouraged to increase the total distance by 10% per month and had significantly better results than those who were not physically active.
Four nutrients that can prevent sarcopenia
Protein is the building block of our muscles, and is especially required by our body once we hit 50. According to one study, men over 70 can boost their muscle growth by adding only 35 gr. of protein per meal. Another study discovered that young men need about 20 gr. of protein per meal in order to keep their muscles strong and prevent sarcopenia when they age. Even essential amino acid supplements can help build muscle growth, so make sure to include this essential nutrient in your diet.
Lack of vitamin D in the body is associated with sarcopenia, although scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Taking vitamin D supplements will boost your muscle strength and growth and reduce the risk of muscle loss, so make sure to get the nutrient through foods such as eggs, milk or fortified cereal.
Omega-3 fatty acids
No matter how old you are, omega-3s are one of the most important nutrient for your health. A study found out that only 2 gr. of fish oil supplements combined with resistance training can boost your muscle growth and strength, effectively reducing the risk of sarcopenia as you age. Omega-3s can be found in fish oil, salmon, walnuts, enriched dairy products and flaxseeds as well.
Creatine is a small protein produced by the liver, and although the body produces enough to prevent sarcopenia and muscle loss, we may benefit by getting more creatine from a supplement. However, in order to get the most out of creatine, you must pair the supplement with resistance training.
As you can see, there is more than one way to prevent the onset of sarcopenia. Although supplements will surely help, resistance training and regular exercise are the best way to prevent the condition from occurring. Make sure to exercise regularly and add the aforementioned supplements into your diet and you will never have to fear muscle loss.