What Is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is an age-related condition that is characterized by the loss of muscles, strength, and function. The condition involves the loss of muscle mass and function. Individuals who are not physically active can lose as much as 5 percent of their muscle mass after age 30. Sarcopenia can also develop in people who are physically active.
Although no particular lean muscle mass can be used to diagnose sarcopenia, any muscle loss is important because of the strong link between muscle mass and strength.
Aging and inactivity are the primary causes of sarcopenia. However, evidence shows that sarcopenia can also develop in individuals who remain physically active throughout their lives. The most atrophy occurs in the fast twitch fibers which are involved during the high-intensity anaerobic exercises.
Current research suggests that many factors are involved in the development of sarcopenia. They include motor unit remodeling, reduced hormone levels in the body, and decreased protein synthesis.
Fortunately, sarcopenia can be reversed using appropriate exercises.
Symptoms And Causes Of Sarcopenia
The signs and symptoms of sarcopenia include weakness and loss of stamina. The symptoms can interfere with the physical activity of an individual. Reduced physical activity shrinks the muscle mass of a person leading to reduced muscle mass.
The reduced muscle mass and strength are accompanied by problems with mobility, frailty, and fractures. Patients may also present with weak bones, loss of independence and weight gain due to lack of physical activity.
Sarcopenia may also cause metabolic effects such as a reduction in resting metabolic rate. A reduced metabolic rate can increase the risk of developing dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hypertension.
Sarcopenia is mostly seen in individuals who are physically active. However, it can also develop in persons who remain physically active for the rest of their lives. The fact that sarcopenia can occur in individuals who are physically active suggests that there are other factors involved besides being physically inactive.
Studies indicate that the reduction in nerve cells that are responsible for sending from the central nervous system to the muscle tissue can result in the reduction of muscle tissue.
The decline of the hormones that are involved in the growth and maintenance of the muscle tissue is also a risk factor for the development of sarcopenia. The growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, and testosterone play a fundamental role in the growth and maintenance of the muscle tissue.
Growth hormone and testosterone are required for the protein maintenance. Insulin-like growth factor determines the rate of protein synthesis. A decrease in these hormones is linked to a reduction in muscle mass.
A drop in the synthesis of proteins is another leading cause of sarcopenia. The balance of protein synthesis and breakdown determines the availability of proteins in the body.
Lifestyle may also contribute to the development of sarcopenia. Individuals who are physically inactive will experience a faster degradation of the muscle mass than the physically active ones.
However, evidence suggests that physical activity does not completely prevent the development of sarcopenia.
The primary treatment regimen for sarcopenia involves physical activity. Resistance training, also known as strength training, is the most recommended by health care providers. The physical activity helps boost muscle strength and endurance.
Resistance training, in particular, has been shown enhance muscle strength among the elderly. Individuals are required to exercise three times per week to slow muscle degradation and prevent the development of sarcopenia.
Proteins are essential for repairing and building the muscle fibers. The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 50 grams per day. However, recent studies have revealed that a higher dose of the dietary protein is needed for adults 65 years and older.
One can find out the number of proteins that are required by the body by multiplying the body weight in pounds by the 0.45.
The product will be the body weight in kilograms which is multiplied by 1.2 to find the recommended grams of the dietary protein per day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids can impact the metabolism of proteins. The fatty acids can also preserve muscle mass under different physiological conditions.
Scientists have also revealed that the omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties which help prevent the development of sarcopenia. According to a study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil help slow the natural decline in muscle mass and strength.
The study concluded that fish oil should be considered a therapeutic remedy in the management of sarcopenia. It can be used to maintain physical independence in the elderly.
Hormonal factors have been shown to influence muscle mass. Natural supplementation can be used to address the deficiency of essential hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone, and DHEA. However, the natural supplementation should be carried out under a doctor’s supervision.
The deficiency of vitamin D is associated with lower muscle strength. Low blood levels of vitamin D may also lead to increased body instability, fractures, and disability among the elderly. Vitamin D deficiency is commonly seen among the elderly regardless of race or ethnicity.
Statistics have shown that nearly 90 percent of the American adult population have vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D can cause sarcopenia. Supplementation of the vitamin in individuals who are deficient can help improve the muscle mass and strength.
Increase Anti-Inflammatory Foods In The Diet
Chronic inflammation is a potential risk factor of sarcopenia. The older population are advised to move toward anti-inflammatory diet to prevent the development of sarcopenia. It is also important to eliminate pro-inflammatory foods from the diet.
Foods such as high fructose corn syrup and trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation which may lead to sarcopenia.
Drug therapy is not the preferred remedy in the treatment for sarcopenia. However, a few medications are under study to determine their effect in sarcopenia.
The medications that are under investigation include urocortin II which is capable of stimulating the production of the hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland.
The administration of this drug IV can help prevent the progression of muscle loss.
Exercise is the most effective remedy for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia. Increasing the intake of dietary proteins can also help prevent the development of sarcopenia.
Other treatment solutions include increasing the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, avoiding pro-inflammatory diet, increasing vitamin D intake, and reducing the use of alcohol.