Muscle Loss After 50: How To Prevent It, And What To Do If You Already Have It
The Muscles are an important organ, attached to the skeletal system that aids in nearly all the movements of the human body. The muscle fibers contract and relax to facilitate movement. With age, naturally, all the cells in the body start to wear out, leading to less efficient and weak bodily functions. Just like other cells, the muscle cells start to wear out with aging. The occurrence of muscle loss after 50, i.e associated with age, scientifically is termed Sarcopenia.
Around 10% of adults worldwide are affected by the prevalent ailment sarcopenia, which usually first appears around age 50. It largely affects the quality of life and acts as a hindrance in daily basic activities. Since it is a naturally occurring disorder, there is no complete cure. Although it can be avoided or managed with considerable care.
So Grab your healthy snack, and sneak into your comfort corner as we enlighten you about everything about muscle loss, what can be done to prevent it and how it can be managed if you already have it.
What Is Sarcopenia/Muscle loss?
Sarcopenia, when translated literally, means “absence of flesh.” It is a type of age-related muscle degeneration that is more prevalent in adults over 50. As per many studies, adults lose an average of 3% of their muscular strength each year after middle age. This restricts their capacity to carry out even the most basic tasks. Sarcopenia progresses with age and the muscles start to degenerate even more so. Consequently, it reduces life expectancy in those who are suffering from it.
Signs & Symptoms of Muscle loss after 50?
Muscle weakness in the case of sarcopenia is the most prevalent sign. However one can experience other signs and symptoms that may include:
- A drop in stamina
- Inability to carry out daily menial activities
- Inability to walk fast
- Difficulty in climbing stairs
- Inability to balance oneself
- Frequent falls and clumsiness
- Decreased size of the muscles
- Unintentional or sudden weight loss
- Loss of interest in activities that you used to like
Early indications of sarcopenia include progressively feeling physically weaker and having greater trouble than normal lifting objects that are known to you.
What primarily causes Muscle loss?
As mentioned earlier, aging is known to be a natural and primary cause of muscle loss. It is a result of an imbalance between signals for muscle cell growth and signals for teardown. Around the time when a person is in their 30s or 40s, they start to gradually lose muscle mass and strength. Between the ages of 65 and 80, this process accelerates. one could lose up to 8% of your muscle mass every decade, though rates vary.
All people gradually lose muscle mass, but those with sarcopenia are more prone to greater muscle loss. Even though age is frequently the predominant factor, researchers have identified additional potential risk factors for sarcopenia. These may consist of:
- Lack of physical movement (sedentary lifestyle)
- Unhealthy weight (obesity)
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Osteoporosis arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Hormonal imbalances
- Severe stress
- Protein deficiency
The decrease in the number of nerve cells facilitates relaying the messages from your brain to your muscles.
How is Muscle loss after 50 diagnosed?
If you are experiencing the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, it is best advised to seek professional help. A healthcare professional performs an initial physical examination after which the patient needs to fill out a questionnaire. The SARC-F questionnaire is the most commonly used set of questions. It is an abbreviation for :
- S — Strength.
- A — Assistance with walking.
- R — Rising from a chair.
- C — Climbing stairs.
- F — Falls.
The patient numbers each range between 0 and 2. The highest maximum SARC-F score is 10 while a SARC-F score of 4 or more indicates the need for further diagnosis.
The diagnosis of muscle loss after 50, although cannot be made by a single test. To diagnose and subsequently assess the degree of sarcopenia, your healthcare physician could suggest several tests, that include:
- Handgrip test
- Chair stand test
- Walking speed test
- Short physical performance battery (SPPB)
- Timed-up and go test (TUG)
How to prevent the onset of muscle loss?
Since muscle loss after 50 is a natural process, one cannot completely prevent it. However, with a good, well-balanced diet and various exercises, one may be successful to keep muscle loss at bay. The various steps and preventive measures that one can take to prevent sarcopenia include:
- Maintaining a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Since proteins are the nutrients that make up the bulk of muscle, one must include high-quality and large portions of proteins in their diet. For example, an average of 30-35 grams of protein per meal is recommended. With protein, it is also crucial that one introduce additional omega-3 fatty acids, creatine, and Vitamin D3 into their diet.
- Exercising regularly will not only aid in maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle but also greatly influence the early onset of loss of muscular strength: Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity like resistance training.
- Regular checkups: Inform your healthcare practitioner of any changes in your health and schedule regular visits with them.
What to do if you already have Muscle loss?
There are various treatment options available that greatly assist in the management of muscle loss after 50. As there is no definitive treatment available for sarcopenia, a combination of various treatments is given.
Most sarcopenia treatments include modifying one’s way of living. These alterations to your daily routine can treat and aid in the reversal of sarcopenia.
Your doctor could advise progressively challenging resistance-based strength training. This kind of workout can increase your strength and stop your muscles from degenerating.
Consuming a healthy diet can aid in reversing the symptoms of sarcopenia when combined with regular exercise. Increasing your protein intake through food or supplements is very important.
Various Exercises to deal with Muscle loss after 50:
As mentioned above, exercises can greatly aid in reversing sarcopenia and if not reversing, it can assist in the efficient management of the condition. The various types of exercises that have proven to be beneficial in reversing muscle loss are as follows:
As the term suggests, resistance training is a type of exercise that is done against gravitational force. Weight Lifting with kettlebells, pulling on resistance bands, or moving a body component against gravity are all examples of resistance exercise.
When one engages in resistance training, the strain on the muscles causes growth signals, which enhance the core strength. Additionally, resistance training boosts the effects of hormones that promote development.
Muscle loss after 50 can also be controlled by sustained heart-rate-raising exercises, such as aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, and jogging.
A combination of both resistance training and aerobic exercises largely helps in the management of muscle loss. To reap the benefits of these exercises, one must engage in two to four weekly exercise sessions. You can also check out our article on the 5 best exercises for seniors to at home for further information.
Age-related sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass and strength, can shorten life expectancy and lower quality of life. It is an inevitable condition but with a proper diet and exercise, the degree of sarcopenia can be reduced.
Protein that is of good quality and adequate calorie intake has been shown to reduce the rate of muscle loss after 50. Supplements like omega-3 and creatine also aid in preventing sarcopenia. However, the best approach to stop and reverse sarcopenia is through exercise.
Exercises that include resistance training and aerobic workouts, appear to be particularly helpful. However, even easy workouts like walking might reduce the rate at which your muscles are lost. The most crucial thing in preventing and reversing muscle loss is to modify your lifestyle and get a little more active.