Sarcopenia refers to the steady decline of muscle mass that accompanies aging. Men begin to lose muscle mass at the age of 30, losing on average 3-5% of their muscle mass every ten years. The projected loss of muscle mass over a typical male lifespan is a whopping 30%.
Muscle wasting is a serious health concern for older men. Muscle loss decreases overall strength and mobility which can affect the stability of the joints. Painful, stiff joints and tight ligaments can reduce the ability to perform physical activity, which further limits mobility and compounds muscle mass loss.
Additionally, decreased muscle strength leads to lower bone strength. Lower bone strength increases the risk of falls and fragility fractures in old age. A fragility fracture is a low-trauma fracture resulting from a fall from standing height or lower. Fragility fractures most commonly occur in the hip, spine, and wrist.
What Causes Muscle Loss as We Age?
Age-related muscle loss can be caused by hormonal and metabolic changes, but the biggest culprit is disuse. Consistent exercise paired with a healthy diet is an effective way to lessen the total percent of muscle mass lost over an average lifetime. While it is best to start early, it is never too late to make physical activity a part of your daily routine.
How Do You Prevent Sarcopenia?
A proper diet with a sufficient amount of protein is essential to see gains in muscle mass from a consistent progressive resistance training program. In older men, anabolic resistance lowers the body’s ability to break down and synthesize protein. It is recommended that older adults consume 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight. It is best to source protein from healthy meats such as chicken and fish. Other sources of protein include yogurt, eggs, nuts, beans, and oats. Protein powders or shakes can be used as well. It is important to supplement micronutrients too, particularly Vitamin D.
A study conducted by Nutrients found that men ages 50 – 83 who participated in a progressive resistance training program averaged a 2.4-pound increase in lean body mass. A progressive resistance training program involves a gradual increase in weight, reps, and sets to steadily increase gains and prevent plateauing. Try adapting a basic routine into your at-home workouts, or contact a physical therapist for an exercise plan tailored to your needs.