Skip to content

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size
A
A
A

Sarcopenia With Aging

From the time you are born to around the time you turn 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in your 30s, you begin to lose muscle mass and function, a condition known as age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging. People who are physically inactive can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you will still experience some muscle loss.

Although there is no generally accepted test or specific level of muscle mass for sarcopenia diagnosis, any loss of muscle mass is of consequence, because loss of muscle means loss of strength and mobility. Sarcopenia typically accelerates around age 75 -- although it may happen in people age 65 or 80 -- and is a factor in the occurrence of frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures in older adults.

Recommended Related to Healthy Seniors

How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age

Do you need to change what and how you eat in your 50s, 60s, and beyond? Yes, though maybe not in ways you might think. You need fewer calories every decade, says Connie Bales, PhD, RD, associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center at Durham VA Medical Center. "We move around less, we have less muscle, and our metabolic rate goes down." The challenge while eating less overall is to eat more nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans,...

Read the How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age article > >

Symptoms and Causes of Sarcopenia

Symptoms of muscle loss include musculoskeletal weakness and loss of stamina, which can interfere with physical activity. Reduced physical activity, in turn, further reduces muscle mass.

Although sarcopenia is mostly seen in people who are inactive, the fact that it also occurs in people who stay physically active throughout life suggests there are other factors involved in the development of sarcopenia.

Researchers believe the following factors play a role:

  • Age-related reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to initiate movement
  • A decrease in the concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
  • A decrease in the body's ability to synthesize protein
  • Inadequate intake of calories and/or protein to sustain muscle mass

 

Treatments for Sarcopenia

The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise. Specifically, resistance training or strength training -- exercise that increases muscle strength and endurance with weights or resistance bands -- has been shown to be useful for both the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia.

Resistance training has been reported to positively influence the neuromuscular system, hormone concentrations, and protein synthesis rate. Research has shown that a program of progressive resistance training exercises can increase protein synthesis rates in older adults in as little as two weeks.

Today on WebMD

blueberries
Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
 
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
 
fast healthy snack ideas
Article
how healthy is your mouth
Tool
 
dog on couch
Tool
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
champagne toast
Slideshow
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Quiz
 
Man feeding woman
Slideshow
two senior women laughing
Article