Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass specifically related to aging. It’s normal to lose some muscle mass as you age. However, sarcopenia describes severe muscle loss that strays from the norm.

Sarcopenia affects your gait, balance, and overall ability to perform daily tasks. For a long time, researchers have believed that this deterioration was inevitable. But they’re now beginning to look into treatments that might prevent or slow down this process.

People with sarcopenia often experience weakness and lose stamina. This can affect their ability to carry out physical activities. A reduction in activity then leads to further muscle mass loss.

A common cause of sarcopenia is decreased physical activity throughout the day. However, although less frequent, some people with active lifestyles may also be diagnosed with sarcopenia. This suggests that there could be other reasons for the development of the disease.

Researchers currently believe that other causes of sarcopenia could include:

  • a reduction in the nerve cells that send signals from your brain to tell your muscles to move
  • a lowering of your hormone levels
  • a decline in your body’s ability to convert protein to energy
  • not consuming enough daily calories and protein in order to maintain your muscle mass

Exercise

The main treatment path for sarcopenia is exercise. Researchers have identified resistance training as the specific form of exercise that is most beneficial to people with sarcopenia. This training is designed to improve muscle strength and stamina and uses resistance bands or weights.

Resistance training can also help balance your hormone levels. It’s been shown to improve the ability to turn protein into energy in older people. These changes have in some cases been seen in only two weeks.

It’s important to work with a qualified trainer or physical therapist to develop an exercise plan tailored to you. The right intensity and frequency of exercise is vital, so that you see the most advantage but are less likely to hurt yourself.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

HRT can help to raise lean body mass, decrease abdominal fat, and prevent bone deterioration in women whose hormone levels decrease with menopause. However, the use of HRT is debated because of an increased risk of some cancers and other severe health conditions.

Some other treatments that are under investigation include:

  • growth hormone supplements
  • testosterone supplements
  • hydroxy methylbutyrate
  • angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
  • vitamin D
  • medications for the treatment of metabolic syndromes

If these prove useful, they’ll be used in conjunction with resistance training, not in place of it.

Lack of activity is the most common reason behind this condition. Therefore, being physically active may lessen your chances of getting sarcopenia. Just half an hour of moderate exercise each day, like walking or jogging, will help keep your system working and fit.

In order for exercise to be effective, proper nutrition is also important. Research has shown that consuming more protein may help older adults reduce their chance of sarcopenia. Supplements have also proven useful in the prevention of sarcopenia. Some include:

  • creatine, for increasing and maintaining muscle mass
  • vitamin D, for maintaining bone and muscle tissues
  • whey protein, to help preserve body mass

Sarcopenia has been linked to metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. These conditions put you at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.

Sarcopenia is an age-related condition. Because of this, it’s difficult to determine whether it has any effect on life expectancy. However, it’s clear that the condition has an effect on your quality of life. This can be greatly improved by an effective exercise plan and proper nutrition.

People who maintain a sedentary lifestyle following diagnosis of sarcopenia may have greater and faster muscle mass loss. If measures aren’t taken to slow the progression of the condition, people with sarcopenia can often be left bedridden.