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Sarcopenia: The Hidden Threat To Your Health

The spectre of frailty and disability is haunting you and your loved ones. Sarcopenia is an age related degenerative condition leading to the loss of muscle mass and strength. Left unchecked it can severely diminish your ability to live life to the fullest.

You probably haven’t heard much about sarcopenia and the devastating effects it can have on your well-being. Losing muscle mass and muscle strength can lead to frailty, falls, lifestyle dysfunction, and devastating injuries.

Advanced sarcopenia can rob you of the ability to effectively do everyday chores: lifting and carrying packages, climbing stairs, rising from chairs, maintaining balance, etc. If not checked, you might live your later-years disabled, weak, in pain, and unable to care for yourself. Your independence may be compromised.

Sarcopenia occurs to both men and women; notably however, researcher W. Kyle Mitchell, et al states that “…woman suffer more from the consequences of (losing) lean tissue mass.”

Suffering from sarcopenia predisposes you to developing osteoporosis. Without strong muscles to create the torque that keeps bones strong and healthy they weaken and fail. When muscles deteriorate so do bones. Both these condition are closely related.

According to Manini and Clark of the Department of Geriatric Research at the University of Florida: sarcopenia

“…is highly associated with both mortality and physical disability, and maintenance of muscle mass with advancing age is critical because it serves as a metabolic reservoir that is needed to effectively withstand disease.”

Sarcopenia and You

If you’re thinking that this condition doesn’t pertain to you, think again. It is estimated that the loss of muscle mass and strength begins at about the age of 40 and increases in severity after the age of 75. Researchers have determined that…

“On average adults lose eight percent of their muscle per decade at age 40; that rate accelerates to 15 percent per decade starting around age 70.”

Studies have shown that about one in three adults suffers from sarcopenia. It is in your best interest to stop or at least minimize this condition, as early as possible. Don’t be fooled into thinking it only occurs in sedentary people or the very old. Active individuals can also suffer from this condition.

In other words, sarcopenia begins early and accelerates. No one is immune.

What Causes Sarcopenia?

Before discussing what you can do to prevent or reverse sarcopenia, let’s look for a moment at its causes, which are multiple. As you age, many things conspire to reduce the size, strength, and power of your muscular system. Current scientific opinion seems to indicate that with age we may experience nervous system impairments that make us less able to fully activate (forcefully contract) skeletal muscles as we simultaneously experience a decrease in overall motor performance.

WebMD lists the following as possible contributing factors to the onset of sarcopenia:
◾Age-related reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to initiate movement
◾A decrease in the concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
◾A decrease in the body’s ability to synthesize protein
◾Inadequate intake of calories and/or protein to sustain muscle mass.

Preventing and Reducing Sarcopenia

What can be done to prevent or reverse sarcopenia? Although scientists have not yet demonstrated precisely which interventions unequivocally prevent or reverse sarcopenia, there is growing evidence for specific strategies that may be effective.

Alfonso J. Cruz-Jentoft, et al, published a systematic review of sarcopenia in 2012 in the journal Age and Ageing and concluded that to maintain muscle health as we get older we need to:
◾Increase daily intake of protein and essential amino acids (EAAs), including the amino acid metaboliteHMB that some studies have shown may maintain muscle (I would add that other studies have been inconclusive)
◾Incorporate resistance training into exercise routines to improve muscle function and strength
◾Speak to a physician to consider other means of preventing sarcopenia.Other researchers have found that:

If you are over 65, the recommendation to add a little more protein to your diet may be especially helpful inmaintaining muscle and decreasing overall mortality. Increasing levels of Vitamin D, which can preserve Type II muscle fibers that are lost in aging individuals, is essential.

In addition, some researchers include aerobic exercise in their recommendations. Although not directly geared to increasing muscle mass and strength, aerobic exercise does lead to an overall improvement in functional capacity.


In the next decade, millions of baby boomers will be retiring. The specter haunting us is that large numbers of them will become weak, frail, and subject to premature mortality. Performing everyday tasks will become difficult or impossible. Medical costs will skyrocket and the rest of society will shoulder the burden. It doesn’t have to be that way.

By incorporating resistance training into your exercise regimen, moderately increasing protein intake, and considering hormone replacements (as listed above) under the guidance of your physician, muscle mass and strength can be maintained into your 80s and even 90s. You will reap the reward of experiencing the vigor, stamina and strength essential to living a long and health life.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Begin as soon as possible to prevent or reverse the plague of sarcopenia. You, your spouse, family, and grandchildren will thank you for it.

For more information about sarcopenia, access