What is sarcopenia?

What is sarcopenia, the “new osteoporosis”?

Fitness, Orthopedics

We have all heard of osteoporosis but probably you have never heard of sarcopenia. Osteoporosis is a progressive loss of bone mass as we age. Sarcopenia is similar, but affects our muscles rather than our bones.

Who gets sarcopenia?

When we reach about age 40, we start to lose muscle mass and strength. It is normal that at 70 we don’t have the same strength as we did at age 40, but sarcopenia is a more severe form of this muscle loss. It is estimated to affect 10% of people in their 60s, and up to 50% of people in their 80s. But all of us—even people who don’t meet the clinical definition of sarcopenia—lose muscle as we get older, but there are ways to significantly slow this process, and prevent sarcopenia.

What causes sarcopenia?

Mens’ muscles suffer from a progressive loss in testosterone starting in middle age, and women experience more muscle loss beginning with menopause. A sedentary lifestyle promotes muscle wasting, and most people decrease their exercise levels as they age.

The third factor is inadequate diet, specifically, insufficient calorie and too little protein intake. The other factor is an increased level of “whole body” inflammation. This inflammation increases if we have other chronic diseases, smoke, or if we eat lots of sugar or trans-fat. Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption also contributes to inflammation.

What does sarcopenia look like?

We sometimes can’t tell by looking at someone if they have sarcopenia, because the loss of muscle tissue is disguised by an increase in fat. Under the microscope, muscles with sarcopenia are replaced by fat and fibrous tissue as the muscle cells degenerate. While a person with sarcopenia may look OK, they will fatigue easier, have a harder time climbing stairs, and more difficulty lifting and carrying things.

Sarcopenia can be treated?

Yes, research shows that it can be both prevented and treated, even in very old people. An amazing study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationin 1990. The researchers found 10 volunteers above the age of 90, already in nursing homes. After an 8-week high intensity age-appropriate weight training program, their average strength gain was 174% and walking speed increased by 48%. If people in their 90s can improve like that, you can too.

Why is sarcopenia serious?

People with sarcopenia have a much higher risk of falling and suffering fractures. This often leads to hospitalization and more inactivity and the process gets worse. It can become a viscous cycle. Even people with sarcopenia who don’t suffer fractures have more fatigue than they should at their age. The fatigue and general weakness make them even more likely to become more sedentary, and the viscous cycle begins. People who don’t treat their sarcopenia have a much higher risk of earlier death.

What is the treatment?

Fortunately, sarcopenia is easier to prevent and to treat than osteoporosis. In our next post, we tell you how you do that, no matter your age.

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website: www.Procuramed.com.

See also in ProcuraMed:

Post-workout muscles soreness: “good” pain vs. “bad” pain

Think less when exercising for better results

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Recommended doctors

These are some recommended doctors on ProcuraMed.