SARCOPENIA – LOSS OF MUSCLE MASS By Cord Prettyman, MPT
I’m guessing if I said the word osteopenia, most of you would know what I’m talking about. It is, of course, the loss of bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis resulting in skeletal fractures.
However, I wonder if you know about sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass that starts for most people somewhere in their 30’s. And, if you do, I doubt if you’re much concerned about it and you should be.
Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines sarcopenia as “a loss of skeletal muscle mass that may accompany aging. Studies indicate that the loss of skeletal muscle for the average healthy person amounts to about 20 percent between 30 and 70 years of age.”
“The loss may accelerate as aging progresses. The muscle is replaced with fat, usually in a subtle way that is not noticed by the individual.”
So, what’s the big deal? You’re getting older and losing a little muscle along with some bone mass and a little hair … that’s to be expected.
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, skeletal muscle is much more than an unsophisticated apparatus for locomotion relegated to body builders. Our muscles are an intricate part along with our body organs all acting as members of an orchestra constantly signaling each other in order to create the symphony we call health.
The lack of skeletal muscle is a major player in the three most common health problems associated with aging … decreased insulin sensitivity leading to type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis resulting in bone fractures and cognitive decline leading to dementia. Because skeletal muscle is the primary tissue responsible for the regulation of blood glucose, it is a factor in all three of these conditions.
When the regulation of blood sugar levels fails, you’re on your way to type 2 diabetes, which is empirically linked with decreased cognitive capacity leading to dementia. The lack of muscle mass also impacts bone growth by reducing weight-bearing activity resulting in a decrease in new bone tissue.
According to WebMD, the early symptoms of sarcopenia are weakness and loss of stamina that interfere with physical activity. The causes are more complex and are seen mostly in sedentary people but have also been documented in the physically active.
Researchers believe the culprits in the loss of muscle mass are a reduction in the nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movement and lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormones, testosterone and insulin-like growth factor. Other issues include a decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy and not getting enough protein each day to sustain muscle mass.
Is the loss of muscle mass an unavoidable by-product of the aging process? Scientists say no.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated that the primary treatment for sarcopenia is strength training. Regardless of your age, weight lifting can help your neuromuscular system, hormone levels and improve your ability to convert protein to energy in as little as two weeks.
So, move over muscle-heads. Strength training is for everyone.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org through his website at www.cordprettyman.com.