As you age, you will notice that you have new and inexplicable aches and pains. In fact, it has been reported that health conditions form the main reason why older adults and retirees experience stress and mental health issues. One such health issue that can creep up on you is sarcopenia or simply, muscle loss. In fact, middle-aged adults lose about 3% of their muscle mass each year! This is not immediately a cause for concern, but it can become a problem if not managed properly and can even shorten one’s life expectancy. This article will explain the causes of sarcopenia and give you tips on how you, too, can avoid it.
Leading A Sedentary Life
It should come as no surprise that being inactive or sitting down for long periods of time can increase muscle loss. Indeed, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. This disuse can happen for many reasons including long-term bed rest, or lack of mobility due to injury. Even a few weeks of inactivity can reduce muscle mass.
Eating An Unhealthy Diet
This usually happens if you are trying to lose weight and are eating a calorie-deficient diet. Weight loss usually occurs because of the loss of muscle mass instead of fats. This is usually compounded because as you get older, your dietary preferences change due to the difficulty of eating chewier meat as well as problems with cooking and shopping for your own groceries.
Long-term Inflammatory Diseases
Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and tuberculosis cause an inflammatory response in the body, that is the signal to break down and rebuild cells that are damaged. Sometimes, the long-term illnesses disrupt this balance of breaking and building which results in accelerated muscle loss.
Surprisingly, stress on the body also leads to sarcopenia. This can include anything from diseases like cancer and heart failure to the stresses associated with daily life like poor environmental quality and long working hours.
The Benefits of Exercise
While sarcopenia can seem scary, there are simple ways that you can avoid it. The best way is by exercising. There are several different types of exercise, and each has their unique benefits
- Resistance Training: This is an umbrella term for activities like weightlifting and using your body weight. This creates tension in muscle fibers leading to growth signals being activated.
- Aerobic Exercise: This includes exercises like strenuous hiking, cycling, and jogging. Even 15 minutes per day of these exercises can help reverse the effects of sarcopenia.
- Walking: Walking is the most accessible physical activity of the 3 and can be done anywhere. Faster walkers and those who walk longer tend to reap more benefits from this.
Nutrients That Combat Sarcopenia
- Protein: found in meat, eggs, and soy
- Omega-3 fatty acids: found in seafood like fish
- Creatine: produced by the body but supplements can be taken
Overall, a nutritious meal with balanced items from all food groups is important. You could experiment with various cuisines and methods of food preparation too!