Sarcopenia - the undiagnosed epidemic

W’ve been warned for many years about the dangers of losing bone mass (osteoporosis) as we get older. But did you know that one of the greatest long-term threats to our ability to remain healthy and function independently with advancing age is a steady loss of lean muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is increasingly recognized as a serious health problem that afflicts millions of aging adults and places an ever-greater strain on our health care system.1 Age-related loss of muscle mass and strength will not only rob you of the ability to perform even the most basic tasks of daily living, but also heightens your risk of suffering devastating injuries and even death from sudden falls and other accidents significantly. The good news is that you can take immediate steps to greatly lessen your risk for sarcopenia

Understanding Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia generally appears after the age of 40 and accelerates after the age of approximately 75. Here’s the minimum you should be doing to reduce the risk:

Walking - Two or more times per week for 30 minutes per session. This recognizes that those over 65 may get as sweaty and tired from a moderate walk as a 30-year-old gets from a brisk jog

Muscle strengthening - Three times per week for 30 minutes per session. This involves doing 8 to 12 repetitions of targeted exercises to build all the major muscle groups such as biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and back

Balance training - Three times per week. This can help reduce the risk of falling by 30 percent. Tai chi classes, balance gadgets (including wobble boards, balls, and cushions), and yoga poses that require standing on one foot can help build balance

Eat high-quality sources of protein - probably the most important thing you can do to maintain muscle is to maintain, or even increase, your intake of protein as you get older. Latest research suggests that doubling the recommended daily allowance of protein from about 50 grams a day to about 100 grams a day can improve muscle mass, strength, and function. Since your body can convert only so much protein into muscle at one time, it’s best to space protein intake evenly throughout the day, getting about 30 to 35 grams with every meal

These are the best sources of protein:

27 grams: 3 ounces top round steak

25 grams: 3 ounces chicken breast

25 grams: 3 ounces canned tuna fish

23 grams: 3 ounces salmon fillet

21 grams: 3 ounces ground beef

20 grams: 1/2 cup tofu

18 grams: 3-egg omelette

17 grams: 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts

16 grams: 6-ounce Greek yogurt

14 grams: 1 cup beans or chickpeas

11 grams: 1.5 ounces cheese

11 grams: 8-ounce cup of soy milk

10 grams: 4 ounces cottage cheese

10 grams: Starbucks tall skim latte

8 grams: 8-ounce glass of milk

6 grams: 1/4 cup quinoa

Maintain optimal hormone levels - Aging is accompanied by declining levels of many essential hormones in the body, particularly tissue-building (anabolic) hormones such as growth hormone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), and testosterone. Testosterone is especially critical to maintaining lean body mass. Because hormonal factors can significantly affect muscle mass, all adults over the age of 40 should undergo annual blood testing to track their hormone levels. If necessary, hormone deficiencies can be addressed using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Since hormone replacement therapy requires regular monitoring and is contraindicated in some individuals, you should consult a medical professional about your specific hormone replacement needs

Consider supplements - There are several supplemental nutrients that can be especially helpful for combating sarcopenia, both directly and indirectly. These include creatine, vitamin D, whey protein, acetyl-L-carnitine, glutamine, and buffering agents such as potassium bicarbonate

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