Sarcopenia is a word that’s used to
describe age-related muscle loss and strength, and it’s estimated to affect
approximately one-third of older people.
Muscle loss isn’t about vanity, nor
is it about how much weight you can lift in the gym. The reason that
maintaining muscle throughout adult life is important is that it helps us to
stay independent and mobile as we get older. These factors are essential for
good health, as well as for the enjoyment of life.
Sarcopenia can contribute
to an increased risk of falls and fractures, the development of type 2
diabetes, and increase the chance of requiring assisted living. Osteoporosis Australia estimates that by 2020, there will be one
fracture every two and a half minutes in Australia, equating to 501 fractures
per day and 3,521 fractures per week. Fractures are particularly dangerous for
older people, so maintaining healthy muscles and bones is important as you age.
Age-related muscle loss is also a risk factor
for disability and increased mortality.
Losing muscle can severely impact a
person's quality of life. Depending on the severity of muscle loss, it can mean
that you’re unable to perform everyday activities, such as walking, going to
the bathroom, preparing meals or hobbies like gardening.
Research has found that after 70, muscle mass and strength decline at a
rate of about 2% every year. Luckily, there are some things that you can do to
help prevent muscle loss, and remain healthy and strong as you grow older:
Try resistance training
We know that muscle is built and
maintained through regular use. Living a sedentary lifestyle with very little
physical activity increases the risk of muscle loss. For most people, strength begins to decline around the age of 40, so it’s important to maintain and build
strength throughout our adult lives to prevent muscle loss.
When you practice resistance
training exercises, it places stress on the muscle. The muscle then positively
adapts, repairing itself and building new fibres, which help the muscle to grow
and strengthen. The same is true for bones — according to Osteoporosis Australia, a decline in bone density can result from a
lack of ‘stress’ being placed on the bone.
examined a group of adults between 65 and 94 and found that resistance training
three times per week for 12 weeks resulted in increased muscle strength.
Strength or resistance training is
particularly effective in building and maintaining muscle mass as well as
healthy bones. Incorporating regular resistance training into your weekly
exercise regime can help to maintain strength and muscle mass.
Research has even
found that a decrease in the number of daily steps can result in a significant
reduction in muscle mass and strength, as well as a possible increase in the
risk of disease.
While resistance training is
helpful in building and maintaining lean muscle mass, so is general movement.
Incorporating exercises such as walking, gardening, dancing, or any aerobic or
endurance exercise will help to maintain muscle.
Regular exercise keeps your muscles
in use, which can slow down muscle loss as you age.
Eat enough protein
High-protein diets aren’t just for
bodybuilders. Protein is a nutrient that plays an important role in helping to build and
maintain lean muscle mass. Protein acts as a building block, helping to repair
and rebuild muscle tissue.
When it comes to sarcopenia, there
is evidence to suggest that the combination of exercise and dietary protein is
particularly important for muscle protein synthesis or the process of building
and repairing muscle.
Research suggests that 25-30 grams of protein with each meal is an ideal range to
aim for. It’s best to choose high-quality proteins that are rich in amino
acids, such as poultry, meat, seafood, and dairy products.
It can be difficult to know what a
serving that contains 25-30 grams of protein would actually look like, so here
are some amounts to aim for:
of cooked chicken or turkey breast
of cooked chicken thigh
90 grams of
cooked low fat (5%) beef mince or lean steak
of cooked salmon
of low-fat Greek yoghurt
of firm tofu
of cooked red kidney beans
Include creatine and Vitamin D in your diet
that low levels of vitamin D in older people is associated with lower bone
density and muscle mass and an increased risk of falls and fracture. One study with 124 subjects over the age of 65 found that the group that
supplemented with the highest level of vitamin D had a lower incidence rate of
falls over a five-month period compared to those taking lower doses. Another study found that when given to older women, vitamin D therapy was
observed to increase muscle function.
Creatine is a molecule that’s found
in foods such as meat and eggs and is regularly taken as a supplement by people
who resistance train. Its main benefit is to increase power output while you’re training, which in turn can help to increase lean
muscle mass. Similar results have been found in studies which focus on older adults, suggesting that supplementing creatine may
help to build and maintain muscle mass when taken in conjunction with a
consistent resistance training regime.
If you’re interested in
supplementing vitamin D or creatine, speak to your GP or visit your local
Capital Chemist pharmacist to discuss your individual needs and treatment