Sarcoperson’s the body ages, a person becomes at risk of suffering from several diseases.
The primary focus is generally placed on conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, causing joints to become painful and stiff.
What many fail to recognize is the fact that muscle deterioration often also occurs as a person’s age.
This can lead to weakness, an increased risk of falls, and the inability to continue to perform tasks. Muscles play a crucial role in allowing the body to function properly – they enable the person to walk, to move their arms, lift objects, and more.
One condition that comes to mind when considering the loss of muscle mass in older people is sarcopenia. Many are at risk of the condition, which can lead to long-term disability, as well as a risk of mortality.
What Is Sarcopenia?
Muscles continue to grow – in both mass and strength – up to the point of around 30 years of age. After this period, there tends to be a gradual decline in the function, strength, and mass of muscle tissue in the body. This is the main factor that leads to the development of sarcopenia.
In such a case, however, the condition is most often referred to as age-related sarcopenia. This is due to the loss of muscle occurring naturally with age.
Sarcopenia is not an uncommon condition. The name might sound foreign to some people.
The condition is primarily linked to older age, but certain conditions can result in the development of sarcopenia at a younger age.
The definition of sarcopenia is a reduction in muscle mass. In addition to causing muscle loss, muscle strength is also affected.
Several studies have been conducted to determine the prevalence of sarcopenia.
The majority of these studies have focused on identifying the impact of the disease among older individuals.
In some people, the deterioration of muscle mass may occur faster than others. There are, however, some people will continue to enjoy healthy muscle tissue in both mass and strength, even at an older age.
What Factors Contribute To Sarcopenia?
Scientists have conducted thorough research and found that several factors may contribute to the development of sarcopenia – in both older people and the younger population.
Apart from age, one of the most critical factors that contribute to a deterioration of muscle mass and the development of sarcopenia is inadequate physical activity.
With a reduction in physical activity, there is a higher risk of finding that muscle deteriorates faster.
Additional factors that contribute to the development of sarcopenia potentially include:
- An imbalance with hormones in the body has been found to potentially cause a reduction in muscle mass, further contributing to the complications associated with sarcopenia.
The specific hormones that need to be noted here include insulin-like growth factor, testosterone, and growth hormone. When there is a decline in any of these three hormones, then muscle mass may be adversely affected. A hormone imbalance can also contribute to the loss of stamina and endurance, weakness, and other symptoms associated with sarcopenia.
- It has also been found that inadequate calorie consumption may prevent the body from supporting the growth of muscle tissue and maintaining existing muscle mass.
This is especially when a person’s diet lacks protein. Protein, broken down into amino acids, is critical when it comes to building and maintaining muscle tissue.
- In some cases, it has been found that nerve-related issues may also contribute to muscle weakness and the development of sarcopenia. There are nerve cells that are responsible for allowing communication between the brain and the tissue that make up muscle mass in the body.
When a problem occurs with these cells, then the communication between muscles and the brain becomes interrupted. This leads to reduced muscle movement due to the disruption of signaling pathways to the muscles. In turn, the reduced muscle movement can cause deterioration of the tissue.
- Certain conditions can make it harder for the body to effectively convert protein consumed through food into energy for the body to use – including muscle tissue. In such a case, muscles do not gain adequate energy and proteins to maintain their mass. This can also lead to fatigue and a reduction in stamina.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sarcopenia?
Certain steps can be taken to assist in reducing the rate at which muscle mass deteriorates. This could potentially help to delay the disabling effects that the condition tends to have in the body.
The main symptom that a person would experience when they are developing sarcopenia would be a weakness of their muscles.
Conducting the normal daily tasks that they are used to doing becomes harder. Picking up objects that seemed light to them in the past suddenly seems heavy – and their muscles quickly become tired when they pick up these items.
Most people will also find that they lack stamina when sarcopenia develops – this becomes even more concerning as the disease progresses.
In turn, this would start to affect the ability to continue participating in physical activity – which then causes inactivity, leading to a further shrinking and deterioration of muscle mass.
Additional symptoms that people should also be wary of include:
- The patient may find that their endurance declines as the disease progress.
- There may be a weakness in balance.
- The person may start to have difficulty climbing upstairs.
- Muscle size may continuously decline.
When muscle mass declines significantly, the person also becomes at risk of experiencing falls. The individual may even start to lose their independence as they suffer a loss of mobility.
Risk Factors: Who’s At Risk?
Age is a definite risk factor that has been associated with sarcopenia. In most epidemiology studies, researchers put the majority of their focus on determining what percentage of the senior population is affected by sarcopenia.
However, some risk factors can cause an increased likeliness of sarcopenia among anyone – including a younger person.
There are two major risk factors that people need to be aware of.
Physical inactivity is considered a major concern throughout the world. When a person does not participate in enough exercise, they are considered sedentary.
In one study, almost 60% of the adults in the United States were found to live a sedentary lifestyle.
Several health-related complications come with a sedentary lifestyle. One significant impact would be an increase in weight, since no calories are burnt during the day, leading to a caloric surplus with any food consumed.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are currently considered the major cause of disability and severe disease throughout the entire world.
Physical inactivity and the combined risk of obesity leads to joint pain, arthritis, and even problems with muscles.
Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle also seems to be one of the most significant risk factors of sarcopenia.
When a person is not physically active, they do not exercise their muscles. This reduces the growth of new muscle tissue and causes the existing muscle to deteriorate. In turn, a person is much more likely to suffer from sarcopenia.
Another critical risk factor of sarcopenia is malnutrition.
In one study, 279 elderly patients were analyzed to determine the prevalence of malnutrition among the senior population. The prevalence of malnutrition among the study subjects was 17.9%.
Additionally, more than half of the participants were at risk of malnutrition. The major contributing factors to malnutrition was an inadequate intake of vegetables and fruits, along with the presence of obesity.
Malnutrition can cause a large number of potential problems in the human body. Complications of malnutrition include:
- weight loss
- skin lesions
- poor appetite
- high fever
Even just a minor lack of essential nutrients in the body can cause complications. One of these complications would be inadequate support for the growth and maintenance of muscle tissue.
Diagnosis Of Sarcopenia
The diagnosis of sarcopenia can pose as a complicated issue.
This is because there is not a single blood test or related diagnostic tool that can be used to diagnose this problem accurately. Instead, a physician will have to conduct a thorough examination of the patient.
A full medical history of the patient will be taken. Problems like metabolic syndrome and injuries need to be ruled out – as these may cause the patient to also suffer from weakness, fatigue, and a loss of stamina. Additionally, the presence of certain diseases may also cause a person to experience a faster deterioration of sarcopenia.
The physician will start by considering the symptoms that the patient experiences.
In many cases, the physician will conduct a handgrip strength measurement on the patient. This can help them determine if there is a significant reduction in wrist and hand strength, which can be an indication of a more severe deterioration in muscles found in the arm.
Most physicians will require the patient to undergo a specific imaging test known as a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry
The test is sometimes also referred to as a DXA. This test is usually required to assist in the diagnosis of osteoporosis. It helps to determine bone density and consider how severe the existing breakdown of bone tissue might be.
In the case where sarcopenia is suspected, however, the DXA test results will not be used to look at bone density. Instead, the same imaging tests will be used to help the physician determine an accurate measurement of existing skeletal mass.
When there is a significant reduction in muscle tissue, then the physician will likely consider additional tests.
The DXA imaging test is most often combined with a walking speed test. This can be done in the physician’s office if they have the appropriate equipment ready. The walking speed test can assist in determining the effect of sarcopenia, but also serves as a diagnostic tool.
Prevention And Natural Treatment
The prevention of sarcopenia is critical. However, the disease might only be identified once the patient starts experience complications. In such a case, appropriate treatment needs to be implemented.
No existing drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat sarcopenia. Thus, when a patient is diagnosed with the condition, there is no specific medication that will assist in treating or curing the condition.
There are, however, some cases where an underlying contributing factor is identified.
Appropriate treatment could be introduced to treat the underlying cause of the sarcopenia. There is no guarantee that this will correct the issue, but some people do experience an improvement in symptoms.
Addressing Risk Factors
People who are looking for ways to reduce their risk of sarcopenia need to consider how likely they already are to develop the condition.
When risk factors are identified, they should be addressed. There is often no need to opt for medical intervention immediately. Several natural strategies can help to prevent sarcopenia.
In cases where a person is living a sedentary lifestyle, this is undoubtedly one of the first factors to address. A sedentary lifestyle often leads to weight gain. Therefore exercise techniques to lose fat fast can certainly be beneficial as a preventative strategy.
Both aerobic exercise and resistance exercise can help to promote weight loss and increase muscle mass. Aerobic exercises include running, jogging, and cycling. One study examined the effects of aerobic exercise without resistance training in 439 women over 50 years of age.
The study found that five days per week of cycling, jogging, or hiking, increased muscle mass.
Resistance training includes weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands, or moving part of the body against gravity.
When you perform resistance exercise, the tension on your muscle fibers results in growth signals that lead to increased strength.
An older individual could also benefit from looking at specific types of exercise for aging muscles.
These exercises will not put too much strain on muscles and joints, which could lead to injury, but rather help to provide just the right amount of activity to keep muscles healthy, strong, and to maintain an adequate level of muscle mass.
At the same time, it is also important not to overlook the importance of a nutritional diet. Individuals who do not have a balanced diet should ensure they make the appropriate adjustments to the meals they eat each day.
Adopting Natural Treatments For Sarcopenia
In cases where sarcopenia is already causing a person to experience complications, it is crucial to take appropriate action to minimize the impact of the condition on the body.
The first factor would be to include appropriate exercises.
Thus, physical exercise is critical. This may include simple physical activities, such as a brisk walk every day. It is, however, important to target all muscles to help keep muscle fibers and tissue healthy and strong.
When hormones are not balanced, then adopting natural methods to balance hormones is an important step to take as well.
Different strategies have been suggested. A lot of people have been able to effectively balance essential hormones in their bodies without the need for hormone replacement therapy, which has been associated with several unpleasant symptoms.
Optimizing the hormone balance in men and women naturally is a process that requires some lifestyle adjustments in most cases. The process does differ among men and women, however.
Men should try to reduce the foods they eat that contain estrogenic compounds. This may help to increase bioavailable testosterone levels that circulate through their bodies.
In both men and women, regular exercise can help to improve the production of critical hormones in the body. It is also vital to reduce stress. Stress has been shown to have a significant adverse impact on the body.
It causes an increase in cortisol, which may lead to issues with the development and secretion of other hormones that are important for maintaining healthy muscle mass.
Certain herbal medicines may help provide an improvement in hormone balance.
Sarcopenia is associated with a significant loss of muscle mass, which also leads to weaker muscles in general.
The condition can cause long-term disability and lead to a reduction in the person’s quality of life. While mostly found in the elderly population, sarcopenia has been reported among younger individuals in rare cases.