How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging) – Evidence Based

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How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging)
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Sarcopenia is a condition that causes muscle loss due to advancing age. Muscle deterioration after the age of 50 can happen due to a poor diet, lack of physical activity, or stress. Some ways to reverse the loss of muscle mass in the elderly include strength training, eating nutritious foods, and getting enough vitamins.

It is important to find ways to combat age-related muscle loss. Muscle wasting and loss of strength can affect everyday activities. Muscle atrophy in the elderly can affect walking, balance, and the ability to lift heavy objects. The good news is that muscle deterioration can be prevented and even reversed.

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In this article, you will learn about natural ways to fight age-related muscle loss. You will also find out how exercise can help build muscle mass after age 60.

What is Sarcopenia?

Loss of muscle mass and strength with aging is called sarcopenia. Muscle mass generally peaks in your late 30s before a gradual decline occurs. However, symptoms of sarcopenia may only become more noticeable around the ages of 60 or 70.

The journal Aging Clinical and Experimental reports that loss of muscle mass and function can greatly affect quality of life and lead to disability. Doctors usually diagnose sarcopenia by checking physical performance and checking for low muscle mass. (1)

Doctors say that it is important to find ways to reverse muscle loss in the elderly, as this is the main cause of a loss of independence in later years. Natural ways to build muscle after age 60 can include proper nutrition and targeted exercise programs. (2)

Causes of Sarcopenia

Although sarcopenia is caused by age, there are factors associated with aging that affect muscle strength and tone.

According to the Journal of Bone Metabolism, muscle decline starts to happen from the age of 40. In the years between 40 and 70, a person can expect to experience about 8% muscle loss every 10 years. After age 70, muscle deterioration occurs faster, and without intervention you can lose approximately 15% of muscle mass every decade. (3)

Factors that can affect muscle loss in the elderly include hormonal imbalances, inflammation, increased fat mass, and nutrient deficiencies.

Let’s look briefly at some of the main reasons for loss of muscle strength with aging.

Sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity

Not being physically active enough is one reason for muscle loss after age 50.

Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can result in muscle atrophy in older people. Low physical activity negatively affects skeletal muscle mass and strength. This can cause weakened muscles, especially in the lower limbs. (4)

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In fact, lack of physical activity is seen as one of the main causes of sarcopenia. A sedentary lifestyle can also increase your risk of other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. (5)

Poor diet lacking nutrients

A diet lacking in amino acids, protein, and other important nutrients can speed up the development of sarcopenia.

Researchers have found that even elderly people who have a healthy body mass index (BMI) may still be lacking in essential nutrients to prevent muscle loss. (5)

Some researchers have suggested that people over 60 should increase their protein intake to help prevent sarcopenia symptoms. Increasing dietary protein helps to build muscle mass and increase muscle strength. (6)

Later in this article, you will learn about the best foods to build muscle mass after age 60.

Chronic inflammation

One of the reasons why you could lose muscle mass and strength in later years is due to long-term inflammation.

A 2017 review of studies on the effects of chronic inflammation found that sarcopenia is one of the results. The aging process can cause an increase in low-grade inflammation. This can affect muscle protein metabolism and result in skeletal muscle wasting and poor strength. (7)

In fact, chronic inflammation can make it difficult to reverse sarcopenia. Scientists have found that inflammation both causes muscle waste and prevents new muscle tissue growth. (7)

Stress

Stress can cause a number of health problems, with age-related muscle waste being just one of them.

The reason why stress can be a reason for losing muscle mass is that it affects your hormones. A 2018 review found that chronic stress causes disorders that impact on your muscle mass. Anxiety, depression, and obesity can result in stress-related osteosarcopenic obesity, a condition that causes weak bones and low muscle mass. (8, 9)

How to Tell if You Are Losing Muscle Mass Due to Aging

Knowing what causes muscle loss with age can help to make lifestyle changes to prevent loss of muscle strength. How can you know you are showing signs of losing muscle mass?

Because sarcopenia develops gradually, it can be difficult to spot its early symptoms. A person experiencing loss of muscle mass in old age may start to drop things, have difficulty picking up familiar objects, or falling more. (10)

As sarcopenia progresses, an older adult may become frailer, lose their fitness, walk slower, and become less active. Stooping is also connected with age-related muscle loss. (11)

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There are other medical conditions with symptoms similar to sarcopenia. If you notice a change in your physical abilities or that of an elderly person, you should speak with a doctor.

How to Fight Sarcopenia and Muscle Wasting (Evidence Based)

Exercise

One of the best ways to reverse age-related muscle loss is to have a good physical exercise routine.

Before undertaking any of these physical exercise routines for sarcopenia, it is important to consult with your doctor to get your fitness assessed. This will help to prevent needlessly straining or pulling a muscle.

Here are the 4 best types of exercises to build muscle mass after age 60 or 70.

Resistance or Strength Training to Help Reverse Sarcopenia

A program of strength training can reverse muscle loss in the elderly. Many doctors view this type of training as the best exercise for aging muscles.

Many studies also show that resistance training is an effective weapon in fighting sarcopenia.

The journal Sports Health reports that it is possible to build muscle mass after age 60. One study showed that men over 60 increased their muscle mass by 5% daily by lifting 80% of their body weight. Other studies have shown that it’s even possible for men over 90 years of age to increase muscle strength. (12)

A 2009 review of 121 trials involving over 6,700 persons found that resistance training is an effective way to build muscle mass and strength in older people. Resistance training improved the gait of elderly people and it was easier for them to get up from a chair. (13)

Studies have shown that a program of targeted training to strengthen all the muscle groups can help to reverse sarcopenia. It is also possible to develop resistance training programs for muscle strength using common household items. (14)

Scientists advise that it’s necessary for an elderly person to learn proper lifting and exercise technique to prevent injury.

Brisk Walking to Boost Muscle Mass

Another type of exercise to prevent muscle wasting and loss of strength in your lower body is to walk.

For many elderly people, walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it is low-impact, good for the heart, and builds muscle strength.

A 2015 study on elderly men and women found that regular walking helped to improve muscle function and prevent sarcopenia. Over a 6-month period, researchers found that walking particularly helped older people who were frail and who had low muscle mass. (15)

One study involving men and women over 60 found that faster walking resulted in a lower risk of sarcopenia. (16)

Daily walking will also help manage weight issues in older people. Find out how much you need to walk every day to lose weight.

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Aerobic Training Helps Strengthens Muscles and Prevents Sarcopenia

Cardio exercises are great to help you regain muscle strength and tone if you are over 50.

A 2018 review of the benefits of aerobic training for muscle strength found that it increased metabolism. Researchers found that this had a positive effect on building muscle mass and increasing muscle function. (17)

One study found that cycle exercising helped to increase muscle size in people over the age of 70. Over a 12-week period, the cardiovascular condition, bone health, and muscle mass all improved due to aerobic exercises. (18)

A study carried out in 2018 found that aerobic training can help reverse symptoms of muscle atrophy in the elderly over a 6-week period. Subjects exercised 3 times a week for 45 minutes. Researchers noted that regular exercising helped decrease symptoms of depression and increase muscle mass at the same time. (19)

Food and Nutrition to Help Prevent Muscle Deterioration

Apart from regular exercising to help keep your muscles strong as they age, you also need proper nutrition to build muscle tissue.

A 2016 review into ways to treat sarcopenia found that getting proper nutrition was second in place after resistance training. A healthy diet for building muscle after 60 should include 25-30 g of protein per meal and omega-3 fatty acids. Proper nutrition can be of great benefit to elderly people experiencing muscle loss. (20)

What are the best foods to include in your diet for sarcopenia? Let’s look at the benefits of protein, oily fish, and anti-inflammatory foods to reverse muscle atrophy in the elderly.

Protein Helps Build Muscle Mass After 60

Healthy and strong muscles require protein to prevent deterioration of muscle tissue as you get older.

The Journal of Clinical Medical Research reported on the importance of nutrition for sarcopenia. Researchers found that adequate protein for the elderly and exercise were the 2 most important factors to promote muscle growth. (21)

One study found that women in the menopause can prevent muscle loss by consuming around 25-30 grams of high-quality protein with every meal daily. Women who consumed more protein had greater muscle mass than those women who consumed less than the recommended daily intake. (22)

Health professionals recommend consuming animal or plant-based protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids. For example, one essential amino acid you need to build muscle is leucine. Getting enough protein in your diet can help to prevent or slow down muscle loss due to aging. (23)

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If you are a vegetarian or vegan and over 50 and want to boost your muscle mass, find out about the best sources of plant-based protein.

Eat Oily Fish to Help Prevent Sarcopenia

There are a number of reasons why fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are good for sarcopenia. Fatty fish not only contains a lot of protein but is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

The Journal of Frailty & Aging found that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) provide good nutrition for healthy muscles. There is growing evidence that oily fish rich in omega-3 can be a useful tool in reducing symptoms associated with sarcopenia. (24)

Even though consuming salmon can help stop age-related muscle loss, find out why you should avoid farmed salmon to stay healthy.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Because chronic inflammation can be a reason for losing muscle mass as you get older, incorporating inflammation-reducing foods in your diet is a good idea.

A 2017 systematic review found that people with sarcopenia tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). This protein is associated with inflammation in the body. (25)

Some studies have shown that having higher than normal levels of CRP can also lead to sarcopenia and also cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries. (26)

You can find out about some of the best anti-inflammatory foods that can help promote good muscle health. Foods such as ginger, garlic, oily fish, and olive oil all help to lower inflammation in your body.

How to Fight Sarcopenia with Supplements

In some cases, supplements can help to boost your muscle metabolism and help avoid muscle wasting.

Generally, it is best to get protein, fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients from your diet. However, there are some supplements that are especially good for building muscle mass.

Omega-3 Reduces Inflammation and Helps Prevent Sarcopenia

Taking omega-3 supplements can help to build muscle mass after age 50 because they help reduce inflammation.

Because farmed salmon isn’t recommended and not everyone eats oily fish on a regular basis, supplements are a great way to get your omega-3 intake.

A 2018 review was published on the effects of omega-3 and sarcopenia. Researchers found that taking omega-3 supplements helped prevent muscle loss and improve muscle function. (27)

Further reading: Scientifically Proven Benefits of Consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids or Fish Oil.

Vitamin D Helps Increase Muscle and Bone Strength

Taking vitamin D supplements can help to regain muscle tone in later years because they improve bone and muscle metabolism.

Some studies have shown that people who experience age-related muscle deterioration often have a vitamin D deficiency. Researchers noted that addressing vitamin D deficiency was one way of treating sarcopenia symptoms. (28)

Other studies have found that vitamin D supplements can help treat muscle loss in postmenopausal women. Taking vitamin D helped women over 50 to develop better muscle mass and muscle strength. (29)

Learn more about the damage that a vitamin D deficiency can do to your body.

Whey Supplements for Building Muscle Mass and Strength

One way that you can help reverse muscle loss in old age is to take whey protein supplements.

A 2017 randomized controlled trial found that supplementing an elderly person’s diet with whey can help to treat symptoms of sarcopenia. Men over the age of 70 took a protein-based supplement for 6 weeks. The results were that the protein supplements helped build muscle mass without exercising. However, when combined with exercising, there was an even greater increase in muscle mass. (30)

Find out more about the health benefits of whey supplements and about the best protein supplements to stop muscle loss.

Other Ways to Help Prevent Sarcopenia

Regular resistance training and getting enough protein in your diet are two of the best ways of avoiding muscle loss as you age.

However, there are a few other lifestyle choices that can prevent age-related muscle loss.

Cut back on alcohol to help stop muscle loss with aging

A 2017 study on postmenopausal women found that high alcohol intake was associated with a greater risk of muscle loss after the menopause. (31)

Quit smoking to improve muscle health

A meta-analysis of 12 studies found that smoking increases your risk of muscle deterioration in later life. (32)

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