Sarcopenia is a condition that decreases life expectancy and quality of life. Yet, there are many ways to battle sarcopenia and become physically fit. This article will explain what sarcopenia is, its causes, its symptoms, as well as its treatment options.
1. What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is an age-related muscle degeneration. It is most common in people over 50. It’s caused by an imbalance between anabolic signals and catabolic signals. Anabolic signals refer to muscle cell growth processes. Catabolic signals refer to muscle cell teardown processes.
There is a balance between signals that allows your body to keep its vigor over time in typical cases. Yet, as we move past middle age, adults slowly lose muscle strength each year at a rate of 3%. As this continues, our body’s normal anabolic signals shift towards catabolic. The result is a loss of muscle and disruption in daily routine activities.
2. Causes of Sarcopenia
Age is the most significant cause of sarcopenia. Beyond age, other factors include inflammation, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and stress.
Excessive inflammation can cause all sorts of problems for the body, such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and more. It can also disrupt anabolic and catabolic signals in the body, which lead to sarcopenia. One study found that adults with blood levels of C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation, can predict sarcopenia.
A poor diet can lead to diminished muscle mass. More specifically, a low-calorie and low-protein diet lead to severe muscle loss. To battle the effects of sarcopenia and stay physically fit, aim for 25-30 grams of protein.
A sedentary lifestyle has the potential to become a vicious cycle. If you start moving less, your muscles will become weaker. If your muscles become weaker, you will stop moving more and more. This nonuse of muscle is a huge factor that contributes to sarcopenia.
Everybody experiences stress at some point. But, severe stress can place a serious strain on the body resulting in significant muscle loss.
3. Symptoms of Sarcopenia
The symptoms of sarcopenia can affect the body in different ways. Feeling weaker over time, walking slower, less interest in physical activity, and weight loss. On top of this, there are other potential related symptoms, including a decrease in nerve cells, lower amounts of certain hormones, and an inability to turn protein into energy.
4. Treatment for Sarcopenia
Although sarcopenia is a natural consequence of aging, it is often preventable. Treatment for sarcopenia splits into two categories: exercises and nutrients. If done well, you can reverse the effects of sarcopenia, which can increase lifespan and quality of life.
Exercises to Battle Sarcopenia
Strength training such as weightlifting is one of the best ways to battle sarcopenia and become physically fit. When strength training, you create tension in your muscle fibers. One study found that strength training only three times a week can increase muscle mass.
For aerobic exercise, it may be best to walk before you run. Studies have shown that walking alone can increase muscle mass. Once you’ve built up the strength to walk consistently, you can try other forms of endurance training such as cycling, hiking, or jogging. Studies have shown that starting with fifteen minutes and moving up can be beneficial towards increasing muscle mass.
Nutrients to Battle Sarcopenia
As mentioned early, an adequate amount of protein is crucial to offset the effects of sarcopenia. Why? Because as we age, our muscles become more resistant to protein signals for muscle growth. Thus, we need to consume more. How much more depends. One study found 35 grams is enough. Another study found that only 20 grams were sufficient. It’s best to experiment with your diet and see what works best for you.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for two reasons. One, they are anti-inflammatory. Two, when combined with strength training, they can lead to increased muscle strength and growth. One study found that a 2-gram fish oil supplement can help a lot for older women dealing with decreased muscle mass.
Although sarcopenia affects 10% of adults over the age of 50, if you can treat it effectively, you can reverse the condition. Exercise and proper nutrients are your tickets to overcoming sarcopenia.
There is a lot to think about! If you have questions about ways to battle sarcopenia and become physically fit, connecting with a doctor in a discrete setting has never been easier.
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