Sarcopenia: A case for strength training
Twenty years ago, the term ‘sarcopenia’ was introduced to describe the common age-related issue that affects a person’s muscles. It is characterized as a decline in muscle mass and strength over a person's lifespan and can affect their mobility, physical ability, and overall quality of life. Although measures such as healthy eating and exercising can help to mitigate the effects of sarcopenia, it is still an issue that many older adults face due to the natural aging process. Sarcopenia can negatively affect all aspects of a person’s health including their physiological and behavioral well-being. We can take daily actions to reduce the prevalence of sarcopenia and improve the quality of life of those affected by it.
Cause and Risk Factors of Sarcopenia
While some factors such as aging are out of a person’s control such as age, there are many other risk factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing sarcopenia. These factors include:
• Poor nutrition
• Lack of adequate physical activity
• Chronic diseases
• Low testosterone levels
• Poor lifestyle habits
• Depression and social isolation
Effects of Sarcopenia
Losing muscle has serious implications for a person’s health. Sarcopenia can lead to a number of physiological and behavioral health issues.
Physiological effects of sarcopenia include:
• Decreased endurance and strength
• Impaired physical performance
• Increased risk of falls
• Reduced ability to perform daily activities
• Reduced mobility
• Weaker cardiorespiratory capacity
• Weakened immune system
Behavioral effects of sarcopenia include:
• Decreased interest in physical activities and social activities
• Reduced overall quality of life
• Increased risk of depressive symptoms
• Greater risk of hospitalizations due to falls and fractures
Treatments and Prevention
Although sarcopenia is an irreversible process, there are several treatments and preventative measures that can mitigate its effects and improve one’s quality of life. Exercise and physical activity are major factors in reducing the effects of sarcopenia and can help increase muscle mass and strength.
It is also recommended that older adults get enough protein and vitamins, especially Vitamin D and calcium, as these can help in muscle maintenance. Additionally, avoiding risky substances, maintaining a regular and restorative sleep schedule, staying connected with family and friends, and managing chronic diseases are all important factors in reducing the risk of developing sarcopenia and improving the overall quality of life. Lifestyle Medicine is a front-line prevention and treatment for Sarcopenia.
The Main Message
While sarcopenia can be a common and natural part of aging, people can take preventative measures through a lifestyle medicine approach. This includes regular movement and exercise, healthful nutrition, healthy lifestyle habits, managing chronic diseases, being socially active, and getting restorative sleep. By following these guidelines, people can experience a higher quality of life as they age and reduce their risk of developing sarcopenia.
Be well my friends and keep training,
Francesco Landi, Rosa Liperoti, Andrea Russo, Silvia Giovannini, Matteo Tosato, Ettore Capoluongo, Roberto Bernabei, Graziano Onder, Sarcopenia as a risk factor for falls in elderly individuals: Results from the ilSIRENTE study, Clinical Nutrition, Volume