You don’t have to be a powerlifter—or just vying for 20-inch biceps—to prioritize muscle mass and strength. And, it turns out, you shouldn’t. Ignoring your muscle health is one reason why about 45 percent of older adults in the U.S. experience muscle loss as they age, according to research from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Called sarcopenia, muscle atrophy can begin as early as your 40s and can reduce your strength, energy and mobility, as well as increase the risk of falls, illness and poor health. All of these conditions can be to blame for disabilities in later life, according to Suzette Pereira, PhD, a research fellow specializing in muscle health with Abbott.
While as you age, hormonal changes can contribute to how your body builds and stores muscle, most cases of sarcopenia are linked to poor nutrition as well as inactivity—whether it’s due to a lack of exercise or to hospitalization and existing health issues, she says. In fact, in one study in the , healthy adults who were inactive lost 2 percent of their lean leg mass over the course of 28 days. Meanwhile, in another patients lost up to 10 percent of their lean leg mass—and in just 10 days.
“Aging is natural, but losing muscle is not,” Pereira says.
Aging is natural but losing muscle is not. The good news is you can help prevent muscle loss. As always, talk to your doctor before starting any supplements or dietary changes.