What Causes Sarcopenia (Loss of Muscle Mass)
The role of exercise and of muscle building on sarcopenia
Muscles have a purpose. Outside of the visual benefits, one must maintain muscle mass within the body to both move and support the skeleton, and also provide us with strength as we age. Without the appropriate muscle building throughout life, the skeletal frame becomes weak and frail, making the incidence of falls and fractures more prevalent.
Muscle maintains one’s metabolic rate.
Since muscle is a metabolic tissue requiring vast amounts of energy, the loss of muscle mass results in a metabolic decline. This decline makes it easy to consume excess calories, which in turn, get stored as fat. Muscle burns fat and helps us stay lean.
Muscle is an endocrine gland.
When muscles are exercised, they release over 700 myokines. Myokines are molecules that promote the health and well-being of the entire body, including the heart, brain, pancreas, liver and kidneys. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is an example of one myokine that is released from muscle that signals repair and enhances the productivity of the brain cells. It even has the potential grow new brain cells in other areas of the brain. Fat and fat cells are also often considered an endocrine gland. The difference, however, is that fat cells have the propensity to affect the health of the body negatively. Fat cells secrete molecules called inflammatory cytokines or adipokines, which damage the body. It is in one’s youth that the body works as it should. So long as there are no underlying health issues presenting themselves. When we are young, it is not too hard to maintain lean muscle mass. With ageing however there may be a shift in energy, physical activity levels, dietary changes and often hormonal decline is apparent. Regardless of what weight is being read on the bathroom scales, there is a significant change going on in the composition of the body. Muscle mass often decreases, fat storage can increase, and the function of tissues throughout the body as a result become jeopardised. When this happens, it is critical one implement lifestyle modifications in order to prevent sarcopenia.
Muscle mass supports the skeleton, preventing falls and the corresponding injury.
Strong muscles support the skeleton. Typically if you have strong muscles, your bones will also be strong and healthy. If you fall, you are less likely experience a bone fracture when you have an adequate supply of muscle mass. Weak muscles cannot offer the same support. In this case, a fall or sports injury may result in a broken bone or multiple fractures. An example of a typical injury that results in death is when a senior breaks a hip after falling. A hip fracture may have a patient immobile, bedridden in a hospital. This can lead to clots in the legs and lungs, and at high risk of premature death.
Muscle mass supports mobility
Age-related loss of muscle mass, or sarcopenia, is a severe problem that decreases one’s quality of life. No doubt you would have seen elderly patients struggling to get up from a seated position. Their loss of muscle mass may also have them requiring a crutch to walk from one side of the room to the other. This lack of strength is holding them back from being independently mobile. Sarcopenia and loss of mobility is a common reason for the elderly getting admitted into nursing facilities.
What can I do to improve muscle mass?
In order to improve or maintain one’s muscle mass, one should be proactive. One should physically strengthen the body, minimise excess fat storage and correct hormonal deficiencies where clinically found to be prohibiting the improvement of muscle mass.
Diet and Nutrition
- Protein consumption may help prevent sarcopenia.
- Protein is essential for building muscles.
- Optimise your diet and consume adequate protein.
- Proper digestion needs to have an adequate supply of enzymes and stomach acid to break protein down into amino acids efficiently.
- Your gut needs to be healthy, so it can absorb the broken down nutrients and supply the body accordingly.
Exercise – High-Intensity Weight-Bearing Exercise
- Muscles need to be supplied a stimulus to grow new muscle. This stimulus may be served in the form of high-intensity training. Walking is not considered high-intensity, even if you engage in fast-paced walking. High intensity is heavy weightlifting, but we are not suggesting that you go out and start lifting weights like an Olympic bodybuilder. Heavy is subjective and personal. It means heavy enough that you stress your muscles. Muscles adapt to the levels of stress that they are exposed to. They also actively de-adapt if you don’t continue to expose them.
- The body is highly intelligent. Muscles use heaps of energy, just to stay alive. If one’s muscles are not being used, the body will de-adapt and consequently remove tissue to preserve and eliminate the energy requirements. In the past, where there was famine, those that survived were those who didn’t have high-energy requirements from day to day. Our bodies actively remove muscle mass that is not used. Conversely, the body has mechanisms from which to grow muscle mass, regardless of age. The way you communicate these needs to the body is to show that the muscle mass it currently has is not sufficient for your needs. You must deliver this message through the supply of raw materials such as diet, digestion, absorption, muscular stress, and hormones. All of these factors are involved in triggering the anabolic muscle growth process (muscle hypertrophy).
- Dihydroxyacetone, the active browning ingredient in sunless tanning lotions, induces DNA damage, cell-cycle block and apoptosis in cultured HaCaT keratinocytes.
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