Sarcopenia, popularly known as muscle loss, affects 10% of adults who are over 50 years old, which makes it considered a common muscle condition. Some of its causes are natural occurrences that happen to a person as he gets aged, yet this is still quite alarming since it can reduce not only life expectancy, but every patient’s better quality of life. However, it can still be preventable to happen. Aside from a healthy diet and regular exercise, there are other actions you can take to prevent or even reverse this illness.
HaloHealthCare.com explains more about sarcopenia-its causes, symptoms and various ways to fight it.
What Is Sarcopenia?
Literally, sarcopenia means “lack of flesh.” Usually common in people over 50 years of age, it is an age-associated muscle degeneration. This happens at this time because after middle age, adults lose an average of 3% of their muscle strength annually. This loss of strength limits their capability to perform even their routine activities.
Sarcopenia happens due to the imbalance between receptors for muscle cell growth and for its teardown. Normally, for instance, some hormones act with certain enzymes to maintain the muscles’ stability through processes of growth cycle, stress, injury, destruction and then recovery. When this cycle and the process is in balance, the muscle keeps its strength over time. But as we age, our body becomes impervious to the normal growth signals, which slowly tilts the balance between the cell growth process and muscle loss.
Unfortunately, sarcopenia also shortens life expectancy in affected person, compared to persons with usual muscle strength.
Factors That Can Quicken Muscle Loss
It has been mentioned that some of the causes of sarcopenia are those that relates to aging. However, there are other factors can also cause an imbalance between the muscle’s anabolism and catabolism.
- Immovability, including an Inactive Lifestyle
Because the muscles are disused, it can trigger to faster muscle loss and increasing weakness.
Bed rest, immobilization after an injury or illness, two to three weeks of decreased walking and other regular activity leads to rapid loss of muscle and its strength. As the muscle strength decreases, it results in greater fatigue, making it harder to return to normal activity.
- Unbalanced Diet
Because of changes in sense of taste, problems with the teeth, gums and swallowing, low-calorie and low-protein diets become more common with older people. Inadequate calories and protein in your diet, unfortunately, can result in loss of weight which can reduce muscle mass.
Scientists recommend 25-30 grams of protein in every meal to help lessen the risks of sarcopenia.
When a person has an injury or illness, inflammation signals the body to tear down and reconstruct the damaged groups of cells. But when chronic or long-term diseases occur, the inflammation becomes disruption to the normal balance of the tear down and healing processes, which results in loss of muscles.
Some of these illnesses that cause long-term inflammation are: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, lupus, vasculitis, severe burns and chronic infections like tuberculosis.
- Severe Stress
Just like other diseases, sarcopenia can also happen due to stress.
Chronic diseases, cancer and cancer treatments place tremendous stress on the body and can lessen normal activites, which can attribute to muscle loss.
Signs if you Have Sarcopenia
Generally, the signs of sarcopenia are the result of decreasing muscle strength.
Early signs of sarcopenia include:
- feeling physically weaker over time, which can be measured in tests like hand-grip-strength which helps in diagnosing sarcopenia in suspected patients;
- Decreased strength which can be observed in walking more slowly, becoming easier to be exhausted and being less active; and
- Losing weightwithout trying
However, these signs can also be manifested in other medical conditions. Yet if you experience anything of these, have an immediate consultation to a health professional.
Exercise Can Reverse Sarcopenia
Keeping our muscles active is the best way to fight sarcopenia. It can be done by performing combinations of aerobic exercise, resistance training and balance training. In order to achieve its benefits, at least two to four exercise sessions weekly is required to be done.
All types of exercise can benefit to reduce the risks of this condition, but some should be more than others.
- In Resistance Training
This training includes weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands or generally, moving part of the body against gravity.
As you do these exercises, the stiffness on the fibers of your muscle results in growth signals that lead to increased strength. Moreover, the growth-promoting hormones also benefits from these routines because it increases its actions.
These combined signals cause muscle cells to have the ability to grow and repair themselves by creating new proteins and by turning on special muscle stem cells called “satellite cells,” which aids in strengthening the present muscle.
- Fitness Training
Continuous exercise like aerobic exercises and endurance training, and routines that help to fasten your heart rate can also control sarcopenia.
Aerobic exercises such as resistance and flexibility training is combined program which focuses on the for the treatment or prevention of sarcopenia. However, it is often unclear whether aerobic exercise without would be beneficial even without the presence of resistance training.
Walking, an activity that most people can do anytime, anywhere, can also help to prevent and even reverse sarcopenia.
227 Japanese adults with ages of more than 65 years old have been studied, and it was found that six months of walking can help increase muscle mass, especially to those who had low muscle mass. Each of the participants have different distance when they walked, however, they were encouraged to increase their total daily distance by 10% each month.
Moreover, there was another study to 879 adults over 60 years of age, which discovered that those who walk faster were less likely to have sarcopenia.
Four Nutrients That Fight Sarcopenia
If you’re lacking in calories, protein or particular vitamins and minerals, you have the higher risk of muscle loss.
However, even if you aren’t deficient, getting higher doses of some key nutrients can promote better muscle growth or improve the benefits of exercise.
The presence of protein in your diet directly signals your muscle tissue to build and strengthen themselves.
As people gets older, their muscles become more unaffected to this signal, so consuming more protein helps to increase muscle growth.
Leucine, an amino acid, is mainly essential to regulate the growth of the muscles. Some of the best sources of leucine are whey protein, meat, fish and eggs, as well as soy protein isolate.
- Vitamin D
Despite of unclear reasons, Vitamin D deficiency is said to be also related to sarcopenia. However, taking vitamin D supplements can help intensify the strength of muscles and reduce the risk of falling.
Also, the best dose of vitamin D that will help to prevent sarcopenia is presently unclear.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Regardless of your age, having omega-3 fatty acids either through seafoods or supplements will increase your muscle growth.
Part of this benefit may be because of its anti-inflammatory benefits. However, research has recommended that omega-3s might also signal direct muscle growth.
Creatine is a small protein normally made in the liver. Although your body can produce sufficient of it to prevent you from becoming undersupplied, having creatine-rich foods in the diet or as a supplement may benefit your muscle growth.
However, creatine is probably not beneficial for sarcopenia if used alone, like without doing some exercise.