senior woman lifting weightsAbout 10 percent of adults over 50 experience muscle loss, a condition medically known as sarcopenia. With age, muscle loss is gradual and inevitable. Starting from age 30, your body no longer gains muscle and actually loses about three percent muscle strength each year.

As you get older, the condition may start to limit what you can do and interfere with quality of life. Factors can be addressed to reduce or decrease the condition’s progression, with diet and exercise being the first place to start.

What Is Muscle Loss?

Sarcopenia is a muscle-degeneration condition that builds off the body’s natural arc of decreasing muscle mass. Those who are less physically active have a higher risk, although even those who exercise regularly can experience some extent of muscle loss.

Most people are diagnosed around age 75, when a lack of muscle mass becomes more prominent. For older adults, muscle mass is a protective structure, decreasing fragility and potential falls, while improving strength and mobility. As a result, those with sarcopenia often have reduced life expectancy.

You or a loved one may be dealing with this condition if you:

  • Are experiencing decreased muscle strength and physical weakness
  • Find yourself no longer able to lift ordinary objects
  • Cannot maintain a strong, firm grip
  • Walk more slowly than you used to
  • Find yourself becoming more exhausted with everyday activities
  • Avoid physical exercise
  • Have recently lost weight

Why Seniors Experience Muscle Loss

Seniors often have a lack of mobility, due to changing lifestyle factors or illness. Other reasons for developing sarcopenia include:

  • A diet with fewer calories and grams of protein
  • Increased inflammation, often due to injury or a chronic condition
  • Decreased hormones, including growth hormones and testosterone
  • Stress related to health conditions, including liver and kidney disease, heart failure and cancer treatments.

How Muscle Loss Can Be Reversed

You or a loved one can work to preserve muscle mass by taking the following actions.

1. Exercise

Resistance and strength training can help slow the acceleration of sarcopenia. These activities stimulate the neuromuscular system, which influences how well the body draws energy from proteins.

Resistance training focuses on muscle fiber growth signals and influences the repair process. Aerobic exercises not only elevate the heart rate but incorporate resistance and flexibility.

2. Diet

Combined with an exercise regimen, a diet including proteins, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can help strengthen and grow the muscles, while reducing inflammation.

Try including more fatty fishes like salmon, tuna and mackerel, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and cheese in your daily diet.

3. Medications

In considering potential medical conditions that could be contributing to muscle loss, your doctor may prescribe medications to address related symptoms. You may be prescribed:

  • A hormonal supplement, including growth hormones or testosterone.
  • Medications for metabolic syndrome, including obesity and high blood pressure.
  • Medications that cause the body to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to reduce muscle atrophy.

The team at West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center can address muscle loss in seniors through our short-term rehabilitation and long-term care services. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, contact us today.