Muscle loss as we age is a fact. Beginning around age 30, changes in muscle and nerve cell function, protein synthesis, and hormone levels all begin to go south. The only variable is how fast muscle loss occurs. It goes unnoticed at first, especially if you stay active, but loss is inevitable. Muscle loss not only hampers physical function, it also increases the risk of death. A study in the American journal of Medicine, 2/18/14, found clear links between muscle mass and mortality. To my geriatric clientele, there is something else that’s even more frightening than death itself (or easier to get their minds around), and that is a loss of independence. In fact, a survey on aging revealed that only 3 percent cited death as their leading concern. The overwhelming majority ranked a loss of independence as their biggest fear-more than cancer, chronic pain, or other illnesses. Age-related muscle loss leads to extreme weakness, loss of mobility, an increased risk of falls, and difficulty caring for themselves. But, there is some good news. You can keep muscle loss to a minimum by (you guessed it) using them! Two to three sessions of resistance exercises can increase strength by 25-30%. And, the benefit is even greater for older folks who have been inactive for years. One doesn’t need to get fancy equipment, just working with your body weight is plenty. I tell my clients that the only strength they need is to be able to move themselves around in life. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, stair climbing, lunges, and other simple exercises fit the bill. Exercise will break the muscle down and build it back up stronger. The one caveat: adequate amounts of good protein are needed to fuel the rebuilding process. 75-90 grams a day of good protein is optimal. What’s good protein? Beans, legumes, eggs, milk, lean beef, fish, pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb. Nuts, yogurt, and whey protein powder also work well. According to Dr. Whitaker, there are supplements that help. L-carnitine, vitamin D, a good daily multi vitamin, and Omega-3 fatty acids enhance protein synthesis. DHEA is a precursor to other steroid hormones, and has been shown to improve body composition, strength and endurance, as well as sexual function and a sense of well-being. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology and Biological Science, Nov, 2012. Bottom line: you can’t prevent muscle loss, but you can slow it down. It’s never too late to begin
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.