Muscle Mass Loss with Aging (Sarcopenia)

23 May 2024

What Happens:

  • Sarcopenia: As we age, our muscles naturally weaken and decrease in size, a condition known as sarcopenia.
  • Onset and Rate: Muscle loss typically begins in our 30s and accelerates after age 60, with an annual muscle loss of approximately 3 – 5%. This rate may increase in women approaching menopause and in men with age.
  • Gender Differences: Women experience muscle mass loss at a slower rate than men due to more active muscle protein synthesis, while men’s cells respond more efficiently to protein-dense meals.

Why It Happens:

  1. Reduced Physical Activity: Older adults tend to be less physically active, leading to muscle weakening.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Decreasing levels of hormones like testosterone and estrogen contribute to muscle loss.
  3. Nutritional Deficiencies: Inadequate protein and nutrient intake can accelerate muscle loss.
  4. Nerve Changes: Ageing affects nerve function, impacting muscle control.
  5. Inflammation: Chronic low-level inflammation in the body can expedite muscle loss.

Effects of Muscle Loss:

  • Weakness: Diminished muscle mass results in reduced strength.
  • Mobility Challenges: Everyday tasks become more difficult, increasing the risk of falls.
  • Slower Metabolism: Decreased muscle mass leads to fewer calories burned, potentially causing weight gain.
  • Frailty: Overall physical weakness and heightened vulnerability to health issues.

How to Prevent Muscle Loss:

  1. Exercise Regularly:
    • Strength Training: Resistance exercises like weight lifting help build and maintain muscle mass.
    • Aerobic Exercise: Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming enhance overall fitness.
  1. Maintain a Balanced Diet:
    • Protein Intake: Consuming sufficient protein supports muscle repair and growth.
    • Diet Variety: Include a diverse range of foods for optimal nutrient intake.
  1. Stay Active:
    • Incorporate physical activities like walking, cycling, and swimming into your daily routine.

Bone Density Loss with Ageing (Osteoporosis)

What Happens:

  • Osteoporosis: Bones become less dense and more fragile with age, a condition known as osteoporosis or brittle bones.
  • Onset and Decline: Bone density typically peaks in our 20s and begins declining in our mid-30s.
  • Contributing Factors: Hormonal changes, poor nutrition, decreased physical activity, genetics, and certain health conditions contribute to osteoporosis.

Effects of Bone Loss:

  • Fractures: Weakened bones are more prone to fractures, especially in the hips, spine, and wrists.
  • Mobility Limitations: Fractures and bone pain can restrict movement and independence.
  • Postural Changes: Osteoporosis may cause a curved spine and loss of height.
  • Chronic Pain: Fractures and deformities can lead to ongoing discomfort.

How to Prevent Bone Loss:

  1. Exercise Regularly:
    • Weight-Bearing Activities: Walking, cycling, swimming, and resistance training help maintain bone strength.
  1. Follow a Nutritious Diet:
    • Calcium and Vitamin D: Ensure adequate intake to support bone health.
    • Healthy Eating: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  1. Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Habits:
    • Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol: Both weaken bones and affect nutrient absorption.
    • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Prevent excessive weight loss or gain to protect bone health.
  1. Regular Medical Check-Ups:
    • Bone Density Screenings: Early detection of bone loss through screenings is essential.
    • Medications: Some medications and supplements can help slow down bone loss in high-risk individuals.

Summary

While muscle and bone weakening are natural parts of ageing, proactive steps can mitigate these effects. Regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, and healthy lifestyle choices play pivotal roles in preserving muscle mass and bone density. By staying active and nourishing your body well, you can enhance strength and mobility, lowering the risk of falls and fractures. Regular medical evaluations aid in detecting and managing age-related changes in muscle and bone health, ensuring a vibrant and active lifestyle as you age.