Losing Muscle Mass and Strength As We Age
April 17, 2018
From the time of your birth, up until around age 30 or so, the muscles of your body will continue to grow stronger and larger. However, at some point after that, most people begin to lose functionality in their muscles, and will also begin to lose muscle mass. This condition is known as age-related sarcopenia, and it results in a consistent loss of between 3% and 5% muscle mass every decade after the age of 30, even if you are a very active person. Your Stanwood professional caregivers urge everyone to learn what they can about age-related sarcopenia, so as to better understand the condition and to anticipate its effects, with a view toward delaying or deferring its effects for as long as possible.
This, of course, is a very important thing to be aware of because it causes a reduction of strength and mobility. What makes it even more important is that sometime after age 65 the process seems to gain momentum, resulting in a faster loss of muscle mass and function from that point onward. This in fact is one of the primary contributors to the frequency of falls and broken bones in older adults, so any understanding of it will be well worth taking the time.
Causes of age-related sarcopenia
It's usually fairly difficult to detect the symptoms of sarcopenia in its early stages because they simply are not very dramatic from one year to the next. It's only after a full decade or so that symptoms become more observable. The things to look for are a generally diminishing capacity for stamina, and an increasing weakness when it comes to body strength.
When a person intentionally engages less because of these systems, it generally results in reduced muscle mass as well, because the person is simply less active, and muscles are not being maintained properly. It should be made clear that sarcopenia will strike both active and inactive persons, so it isn't just a function of inactivity.
Here are what scientists believe to be the biggest contributing factors to age-related sarcopenia:
- inadequate calorie intake or protein intake each day for the maintenance of muscle mass
- diminishing concentrations of certain hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor
- reduction in the body's capability for converting protein into energy
- a loss of efficiency in nerve cells which are responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the muscles of the body, to initiate movement.
There aren't really a lot of medical treatments which are effective in reversing the trends of sarcopenia. Instead, the most effective treatment for it is simple exercise, and the most effective forms of that exercise are strength training and resistance training. These kinds of exercises work well because they focus on increasing muscle strength and endurance, generally through the use of either weights or resistance bands. Resistance training, in particular, is highly effective, because in a very short period of time, perhaps three weeks or less, it can dramatically improve an adult's ability to transform protein into usable energy.
While medications are not considered to be the best treatments for sarcopenia, there are some which can have a significant impact. A drug called Urocortin II has been proven to be effective at releasing a hormone known as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which is manufactured in the pituitary gland. When administered through an IV, muscle atrophy can be prevented while certain body parts are immobilized, such as after an accident. While this drug shows promise, further study is needed to determine its true effectiveness.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been used in some cases when a woman's hormone production tapers off during menopause. HRT can increase body mass, prevent bone loss, and cause a reduction in abdominal fat. However, its usage has not become very widespread due to concerns about the risk of some kinds of cancer developing, as well as some other health issues.
There are a few other treatments which are being researched at present, including growth hormone supplements, testosterone supplements, and various medications for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. Some of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome are hypertension, obesity and insulin resistance, and it is thought that the same medications which are effective in treating metabolic syndrome may also have relevance to sarcopenia patients.
Caregivers would like elderly people in the Stanwood area and all their loved ones to have the understanding that the loss of muscle mass and muscle function is a natural part of aging. However, this doesn't mean that you simply have to accept it and let it run its course. By staying more active and including some effective types of exercise, you can slow down the effects of sarcopenia significantly, and enjoy a higher quality of life for a longer period of time.