Authored by –
Dr. Deepa Mehra & Dr. Neelam Bisht
Heard of the term ‘Use it or lose it? This phrase is not just applicable to the cognitive function of the brain but even to the muscular tissues. Muscles are the anchor of the body that keeps the body mobile and erect. Of course, bone and joints have a very important role in locomotion (basically movement) but today we are going to discuss about a less talked about Medial Condition called ‘Sarcopenia”. According to the Lancet ‘Sarcopenia is a progressive and generalised skeletal muscle disorder involving the accelerated loss of muscle mass and function that is associated with increased adverse outcomes including falls, functional decline, frailty, and mortality.’
Which basically means that the body starts losing muscle mass and function which may result in fall & frailty. It is basically an age-related muscle loss and is a natural part of aging. As we grow old the natural wear and tear increases in the body including the muscles. After age 30, one begins to lose 3 to 5% of their muscle mass per decade. Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes.
Less muscle means greater weakness which in turn means less mobility. And there starts the vicious cycle of less muscle, less mobility, increased weight leading to lesser mobility and further lesser muscle mass!! This also increases the risk of fall and fractures. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist.
The symptoms of Sarcopenia include weakness and stamina loss. This can affect the ability to carry out physical activities. A reduction in activity then leads to further muscle mass loss.
Now let’s talk about the various Causes of Muscle loss (sarcopenia) – The most common cause of this medical condition is decreased physical activity throughout the day. Other Causes of Sarcopenia may include:
· Reduction in the nerve cells that send signals from brain to muscles to move
· A lowering of hormone levels
· A decline in body’s ability to convert protein to energy
· Not consuming enough daily calories and protein to maintain the muscle mass
· Inflammatory diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Diabetes mellitus
But just because the muscle mass is lost it does not mean it is gone forever. it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it. And the solution is quite simple.
How to Avoid muscle loss
1. Exercise Regularly- This is main mantra to stay away from this condition. Encourage your parents to get into the regular habit of following any exercise routine. It may mean a 30 min regular walk or yoga or gardening or going to a gym. Anything and everything that ensures that the regime is there as a rule and not as an exception! Don’t limit moving around because they are old, have maids to do the work, Everything is home delivered (from grocery to medicines) it’s too hot or too cold to work out etc etc….. Ensure staying mobile and active is a part of their daily routine. If someone must take rest because of a medical condition, then try to get back to the routine of exercise as early as possible. Lying down for a week loses at least 5% of muscle mass! And in old age it is very difficult to get these muscles back.
2. Consume a protein rich balanced Diet – Ensure that the diet is rich in protein, as a lot of wear and tear happens in old age. Protein helps in building the muscles. So, ensure that the diet is not calorie deficit and 30 to 50% of these calories are coming from proteins. It is helpful to know the health status by getting a Health Check minimum once a year. It helps in knowing the status of basic parameters of the body. And based on that status a more individualist approach can be planned.
3. Keep a check on the Body weight – Data suggests that it becomes more difficult to lose weight once you cross the age of 50. Specially if one has never exercised before. The usual tendency is to start eating less to lose weight. It becomes a double whammy because the muscle mass is lost because of less activity and then eating less means consuming calories / nutrition deficit diet, further reducing the muscles mass. So, getting in touch with an expert like a Clinical Nutritionist will help in reducing weight without compromising the Nutrition.
So encourage your parents to stay Active and Stay fit!!