Sarcopenia (from the Greek meaning “poverty of flesh” is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass beginning around 30 years of age.
Loss can be 0.5 to 1% per year but often accelerates with age.
Even if you are physically active you will experience some muscle loss.
Why It Matters?
It is not just appearance and loss of strength that matter. Sarcopenia exacerbates the risk of falls and fragility fractures. An Australian study of Sarcopenia and hip fractures shows the 71% of hip fracture patients are sarcopenic. It is important to note that it is not just loss of muscle mass that is involved but the entire neuromuscular system that controls balance and movement. As a consequence, not only is balance strength and gait of walking affected but also is the ability carry out the tasks of daily life. Injuries from falling and physical limitation start a downward spiral in independent living as well as cognitive, emotional and social functioning.
What Can You Do About It?
Both physical activity and nutrition can reduce loss of muscle mass. The best results take BOTH exercise and good nutrition.
Exercise: Exercise, especially strength training, is extremely effective for preventing sarcopenia – even in the elderly. Aerobic exercise also helps. While exercise is the best single way to reduce muscle mass loss, 80% of American adults do not get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Nutrition: Research has shown that older adults may need more protein per kilogram of body weight than younger individuals. A survey indicates that one third of American men and women aged 50 consume too little protein.
A protein intake of 1.0 to 1.2g/kilogram of body weight is thought to be an optimum level for older adults. That means that a 90-kilogram man (200 pounds) should consume about 90 to 108 grams of protein per day. For 63 kilogram woman (140 pounds) protein consumption should be between 63 and 76 grams per day. The good news – increasing your protein intake reduces loss of muscle mass even in the elderly.
To put this in perspective consider the grams of protein in common foods rich in protein. One egg- 12.6 grams, 5 oz of chicken breast – 32.1 grams, 3 oz of salmon – 16.9 grams, 3 oz of sirloin beef – 25.8 grams, 1 cup of kidney beans – 13.4 grams.
Most online food trackers can help you determine if you are getting enough protein in your diet – without pushing your caloric intake too high for weight control.
Protein supplements can have an impact but word of caution. Too much protein can
Contribute to renal damage regardless of the source. However, it is easy to overdue it with supplements.
While meats and are a great source of protein they come with negative side, they are acid producing foods. An acidic balance to ones diet contributes to muscle loss. This is one more reason to include alkalizing fruits and vegetables.
Controlling Sarcopenia impacts your ability to successfully age. Maintaining strength reduces the likelihood of injuries from falling that can reduce independence. It also can reduce ones ability to independently carry out the task of daily living. This independence is a contributor to the preservation of cognitive, affective and social functioning.
Keep in mind that Sarcopenia or the loss of muscle mass can start as early as 30 years of age and accelerate. Exercise and adequate protein in the diet are important to all adults. For older adults, it is never too late to benefit so get started.