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Main Causes of Sarcopenia in Older Adults

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Sarcopenia, or muscle loss, is a prevalent condition that comes with the inevitable aging process, with up to 10% of adults over 50 being affected by it.

While it can undoubtedly cause seniors to struggle with daily tasks due to limited mobility in their later years, we can proactively prevent the condition with practical approaches, such as exercising and eating healthily.

Continue reading for the main causes of sarcopenia in older adults, as well as treatments and some tips you can use to prevent the muscle-wasting condition from getting worse.

RELATED: How To Increase Stamina In 5 Simple Ways

 

What Is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is a medical condition that refers to an involuntary, progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass, function, and overall strength, given that muscle mass accounts for up to 60% of body mass. 

Although it’s normal to lose some muscle mass as we approach our 30s, sarcopenia can accelerate the process. Generally, sarcopenia is thought to occur with old age, leaving 10-30% of seniors to rely on long-term care due to a loss of independence. More specifically, it’s been extensively observed that individuals over 60 are more likely to experience a 1% muscle mass loss and 2.5-3% loss in muscle strength annually.

Moreover, sarcopenia is more common in men than in women. People who have poor health conditions are also prone to sarcopenia. Consequently, this kind of muscle-wasting condition can also affect people with high body mass index (BMI) as a result of their inactivity, called sarcopenic obesity.

Alongside being linked to the increased likelihood of frailty, fractures, and falls in older adults, the condition can simultaneously contribute to many adverse health outcomes for the affected individuals after undergoing surgeries or being hospitalized.

 

Symptoms of Sarcopenia

People under the impact of sarcopenia often experience muscle weakness, interfering with their ability to engage in physical activities daily. For instance, an individual may feel physically weaker or even struggle to lift objects.

Consequently, long-term inactivity can eventually cause more muscle atrophy. Other symptoms of sarcopenia may include:

  • Low walking speed
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble performing normal daily activities (climbing stairs)
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Poor balance
  • Frequent falls
  • Decrease or thinning in muscle size
  • Self-reported muscle wasting

 

Main Causes of Sarcopenia in Older Adults

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It has been concluded that declines in various bodily functions due to the natural aging process are the dominant trigger behind the development of sarcopenia at older ages.

For example, our bodies can no longer produce enough proteins for muscle growth as we age, resulting in thinned-out muscle cells and tissues. Additionally, drops in hormone production, increased inflammation, inadequate nutrition intake, and decline in activity can also contribute to sarcopenia in older adults.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), overall muscle function declines at around 40. It continues to pick up when an individual reaches their 60s or 70s. As estimated, a person diagnosed with sarcopenia may lose as much as 8% of muscle mass each decade.

However, it should be noted that even those who have an extensive workout regimen or active lifestyle also get this disorder.

Let’s break down some other causes of this disorder in older adults down below:

  • Reduction in hormone levels
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic factors
  • Loss of endurance
  • Increased inflammation
  • Physical inactivity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Decrease in protein conversion (anabolic resistance)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inadequate nutrient intake
  • The presence of chronic diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer)
  • Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending messages from the brain to the body telling them to move

 

Risk Factors

Although chronic medical conditions and aging play a massive role in the loss of muscle mass, other environmental factors can contribute to the disorder. Moreover, sarcopenia can also occur at younger ages, especially if there is no prompt intervention such as exercise.

  • Malnutrition: Although poor nutrition is possible at any age, older adults typically eat less and have a disrupted ability to convert foods into essential nutrients. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 38% of men and 41% of women over 50 eat less than recommended protein allowance. However, it doesn’t mean that all foods are equally beneficial sources of nutrients and vitamins, as eating too many acid-producing foods – processed foods and grains – can adversely damage muscle mass.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Engaging in little to no physical activities or prolonged bed rest can put people at higher risk of sarcopenia.

 

The Diagnosis of Sarcopenia

Generally, doctors will require a report from the affected individual to diagnose whether or not they have sarcopenia. It is usually accompanied by the implementation of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and a walking test.

DXA is a non-invasive, low-radiation test for assessing muscle mass and body composition. However, the results may vary from individual to individual. This kind of test is also used during the diagnostic test for osteoporosis with the bone density measurement.

In case of limited access to DXA, doctors can replace the test with anthropometric measurements. This technique is the most used practice during a sarcopenia assessment. In fact, anthropometric measurements of muscle mass are used by 57.5% of healthcare professionals, compared to 45.9% of diagnoses made using DXA.

Another approach used to calculate the volume of lean body mass is bio-electrical impedance analysis (BIS). A bio-electrical impedance analysis is inexpensive, easy to use. It requires no specialized staff to diagnose the muscle-wasting condition.

In the end, it is best to speak with your healthcare provider to decide which type of diagnosis is considered the most advantageous for you.

RELATED: How To Gain Muscle Mass

 

Sarcopenia Treatments

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Currently, there is no well-rounded treatment for treating sarcopenia, as well as FDA- approved medications for the condition.

Given that hormone disorders are one of the main causes of sarcopenia, some ongoing research has suggested implementing hormone therapy to increase and maintain lean muscle mass. Nevertheless, more studies are needed before concluding that hormone replacement effectively treats and manages sarcopenia.

According to health experts, focusing on leveraging physical resistance through exercise and workouts may help people avoid the condition as they age and even prevent the loss of muscle mass from worsening.

Training the muscle during workout sessions is proven to assist an individual in boosting their muscle strength, strengthening their bones, and improving their overall health. Essentially, older adults are encouraged to participate in muscle-strengthening workouts focusing on all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

Before getting started, seniors should consult a doctor to ensure their physicality is in good condition and there are no serious, underlying health conditions that may interrupt their training.

 

Sarcopenia-Fighting Foods to Consider

Protein is a crucial nutrient for fighting sarcopenia. As a result, adapting to a protein-rich diet is considered one of the few beneficial practices in preventing sarcopenia. Adults need to consume 1.0-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight daily.

Protein-rich foods that may help beat sarcopenia include:

  • Lean meats (pork, lamb, beef)
  • Fish and seafood (lobster, crab, prawns, mussels, oysters, clams)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Seeds and nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamias, cashews, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds)
  • Beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, all beans, tofu, split peas)

 

Dietary supplements could be another practical way to help with sarcopenia, especially if your diet may not be enough. For example, creatine supplements have been proven to help increase adult muscle mass and strength.

At the same time, don’t forget to take bone-beneficial vitamins like vitamin D to maintain your muscle strength. Before making any new supplements a part of your current supplement regimen, always speak to your doctor first.

FLEXMAX – SUPERIOR SUPPLEMENT FOR MUSCLE GROWTH 

Flexmax is a toxin-free supplement that helps grow muscle. This supplement aims at optimizing growth, stamina, and recovery – the way to lean muscle development. The key ingredients of FlexMax include:

  • BPC-157 is effective in restoring and rebuilding tissue diminished by injury or disease.
  • Epicatechin is used to treat sarcopenia, the body’s tendency to shed muscle as we age or reduce activity.

 

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