Sarcopenia. Which of the following is the correct meaning? A) An arachnid found in South America, B) A place where mummies are buried, or C) Age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function.
If you picked C, you scored well! But to really win as you age and actually increase your longevity, understanding sarcopenia, and beating it, is vital. Sarcopenia creates weakness and loss of stamina, and a loss of activity leads to further muscle loss.
Did you know that we begin to lose skeletal muscle mass when we’re in our late thirties? But don’t worry; it’s not too late to reverse sarcopenia and build our skeletal muscle mass. There’s an important correlation between inactivity and losses of muscle mass and strength. So, physical activity and a healthy diet should be top on your list of priorities!
Four factors that accelerate muscle loss
· Immobility and a sedentary lifestyle
Besides aging, bed-rest and immobilization after an injury or illness leads to fast muscle loss. But even two to three weeks of decreased activity like walking and other movement is enough to decrease muscle mass and strength! A bad cycle of muscle strength decrease and greater fatigue can make it difficult to get back to your normal activities.
· An unbalanced diet
If you’re not eating enough protein, it’s easy to lose muscle mass as you age.
Injury, illness, or long-term diseases can result in inflammation that disrupts the normal balance of muscle tear-down and healing, resulting in muscle loss.
· Severe Stress
People with chronic liver and kidney disease, and those with cancer who receive treatments that place great stress on the body, are in this category.
You CAN reverse sarcopenia
The good news is that exercise can reverse sarcopenia! Combinations of aerobic exercise, resistance training and balance training can prevent and even reverse muscle loss. You’ll need at least two to four sessions per week to achieve the benefit.
· Resistance training
Lifting weights, pulling against resistance bands and moving part of the body against gravity (squats/lunges, push-ups and sit-ups) actually tells your body to build muscle. When you do resistance training the tension on your muscle fibers results in growth signals that lead to increased strength and increases the actions of growth-promoting hormones. These signals work to cause the muscle cells to grow and repair themselves by making new proteins and turning on special muscle stem cells (satellite cells) which reinforce existing muscle.
· Fitness training
Sustained exercise that raises your heart rate, including aerobic exercise and endurance training, can control sarcopenia. Yet, it’s unclear whether or not aerobic exercise without resistance training would be as beneficial.
This simple exercise can also prevent and even reverse sarcopenia. It’s an activity most of us can do for free and most anywhere, so get outside and move!
Four heavyweight nutrients that fight sarcopenia
If you’re deficient in calories, protein or certain vitamins and minerals, you can be at higher risk of muscle loss. Even if you’re not deficient, getting higher doses of some key nutrients can promote muscle growth and enhance your exercise benefits.
Remember how resistance training tells your body to build muscle? Eating enough protein also signals your muscle tissue to build and strengthen. However, as we age, our muscles become more resistant to this signal, so we need to consume more protein to increase muscle growth. You need between 25-30 grams per meal. The amino acid leucine is particularly important for regulating muscle growth and you can find it abundantly in whey protein, meat, fish, eggs and soy protein isolate.
· Vitamin D
Although it’s not completely understood why, vitamin D deficiency is related to sarcopenia. Taking vitamin D supplements can increase muscle strength and reduce risk of falling.
· Omega-3 fatty acids
No matter your age, consuming omega-3 fatty acids through seafood or supplements will increase your muscle growth. Part of the reason is from the anti-inflammatory benefits and the possibility that they may also directly signal muscle growth. (Our bodies are pretty amazing, aren’t they?)
This small protein is normally produced in the liver. Although your body makes enough to keep you from becoming deficient, creatine in the diet from meat or as a supplement may benefit muscle growth.
Get and keep moving!
While sarcopenia becomes more common as we age, exercise is the most effective way to prevent and reverse the condition. Even simple exercises like walking can slow your rate of muscle loss.
I always say, motion is lotion, so let’s keep moving! I’d love to work with you to help strengthen your muscles and help you build a stronger body. You can call me at 720-320-4212, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.
Here’s to your best health!
Dr. Trish PT, DPT