Abbott Logo

Slowing Muscle Loss As You Age

Could you be at risk for sarcopenia? One-third of adults over the age of 60 suffer from it. Learn about the symptoms and how to prevent it.

Feb 9 2016

For many adults, age is just a number. In fact, according to a survey from Pew Research Center, nearly half of adults over 50 surveyed said they feel at least 10 years younger than their age. But despite this youthful feeling, many adults might not realize that their bodies aren’t keeping up with their perceptions. While you are busy living life, you may be losing muscle.

According to a review paper published in Age and Ageing, approximately one out of three adults age 60 and older suffer from sarcopenia, a condition that could interfere with aging adults’ ability to live a full and active life. But the good news is you can reverse or slow this aging condition.

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is an age-related condition that occurs when a person has progressive loss of muscle mass and strength or physical function.

“Most people think that sarcopenia only impacts people in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, but these findings show that is simply not the case,” says Suzette Pereira, PhD, a research fellow specializing in muscle health with Abbott. “That’s why it’s important for adults and physicians to take nutrition seriously and evaluate whether people are getting the nutrients needed to maintain muscle health as they age.”

Don't Be a Sarcopenia Statistic

Don’t Waste Away

The issue with sarcopenia is that it creeps up on you — slowly affecting your ability to perform daily activities that you take for granted, such as walking, rising out of a chair, lifting objects or walking up stairs.

Symptoms of sarcopenia include body weakness and loss of energy. And it’s this loss of energy that can lead to reduced physical activity, which in turn contributes to more muscle loss. Another important statistic to note: Starting at age 40, adults can lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass per decade; that rate can accelerate to 15 percent per decade starting at about age 70. That is alarming when you think about it. But don’t get frustrated — you can reverse the trend.

That’s why exercise is so important, especially if you are feeling fatigued. Regular exercise can increase energy levels while also increasing strength, which is all the more reason to start now on forming habits that prevent more muscle loss.

Use It or Lose It

According to the Age and Ageing review, adults can improve muscle mass through the following lifestyle changes:

  • Exercise: Increase resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, body weight exercises and using resistance bands or tubes. Check out local fitness classes—Pilates, barre, aerobics with strength training and water resistance classes are all choices. Make it fun and get your friends involved, too.

  • Don’t forget muscle-friendly foods: Make sure you work in nutrients such as protein and essential amino acids, such as HMB and leucine. HMB, or β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate, is an amino acid metabolite that occurs naturally in muscle and is found in small amounts in some foods, such as avocado, grapefruit and catfishAlso, make sure you have adequate intakes of vitamin D, which can help support muscle health.

  • Still need more advice? Talk to your doctor about other ways to maintain muscle health and prevent sarcopenia.

“While aging is natural, muscle loss doesn’t have to be part of the aging process,” says Pereira. “Getting the right nutrients such as HMB, protein and vitamin D, along with exercise, can help adults maintain their muscle mass and strength, which will enable them to maintain independence and engage in life’s precious moments.”