Sarcopenia: What Is It and How do I Stop It?!

Sarcopenia is the medical term for age-related muscle loss.  It happens to different degrees to all of us.  The critical aspect is that there are things that we can do to delay that consequence. 

Studies have shown that we lose ½ to 1 percent of our lean muscle mass each year, beginning mostly in our 30’s. With every decade that we age, the muscle strength declines 12 to 15 percent.  If you don’t eat healthy, you don’t stay active (even regularly doing weight training and cardio), and even those who drop large amounts of weight suffer from more muscle loss.  Sometimes people suffer from sarcopenia due to disease or environmental conditions as well as the change in testosterone and estrogen (the hormones that help maintain muscle mass) which decrease with age*.

When someone experiences muscle loss with age, that person may often lose their balance and the ability to carry on everyday chores.  They are often more prone to stooped posture, aches and pains, injury, falls, and broken bones. 

Muscle mass is made up of proteins.  To keep the muscle balance between the burning or use of the protein, and the intake, you need to be sure you provide these essential proteins for your muscles.  Aim to include 25-30 grams of protein per meal.  This can come from lean meats, dairy such as Greek yogurt or milk, fish, soy (edamame & tofu) and whey.  Continued research shows a link between eating omega-3 rich foods and muscle maintenance because inflammation causes muscles to break down and omega-3 foods are anti-inflammatory rich!

People who lead a sedentary lifestyle are most likely to experience pronounced sarcopenia as they age. (  Resistance training and cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes 3-4 days per week can actually reverse sarcopenia later in life by redeveloping muscle mass.  It’s important to challenge the muscle and vary the type of exercise to keep the muscles challenged.  The exercise, in combination with eating protein, builds and repairs the muscle tissue that prevents the condition of sarcopenia.  Aerobic exercise is important for improving your bodies’ response to insulin which helps with muscle health and repair.

If you are beginning a fitness plan, be sure and get the okay from your doctor to exercise.  Ask for guidance from a trainer or respected fitness enthusiast to make sure that you are using good form which can help you challenge your muscles most efficiently.  Make a plan and stick with it.  Keep a diary (free print out for a food diary in this link) to help you track your progress and to chart how you are feeling.  If available, have your muscle/fat measured before you begin to help you gauge your progress.   Use a pedometer or app to help you track your protein and fitness use.  In the end you will feel more energized, more fit, and you will be helping yourself to stay healthy, balanced and to feel better!


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