Aging is usually associated with weakness and diseases, which is a myth. Because of this myth, older people usually switch from staircases to elevators or escalators. However, a modified lifestyle can make old age the strongest and happiest part of an individual's life.
The natural aging process is related to atrophic changes in muscle cells leading to decreased muscle mass and strength. It can also be due to decreased activity and malnutrition. Muscular change is one of the significant factors that cause disabilities in older people.
What Is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, strength, and functioning. The main symptom of sarcopenia is muscle weakness, which can cause physical imbalance leading to increased falls and injuries. Thus, it gradually increases functional dependence and reduces the stamina to perform daily tasks, negatively impacting life's quality. In addition, the rate of sarcopenia increases with age.
Decreased muscle cells get compensated by an increase in fat or adipose tissue, leading to sarcopenic obesity (obesity due to muscle loss). Sarcopenic obesity can lead to disabilities and an inactive state in old age. Therefore, complications will be more significant if both sarcopenia and obesity are present than if each is alone.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Muscle Loss in Older Age?
Weakness- People with sarcopenia commonly experience weakness and loss of stamina due to decreased muscle mass and may usually find it challenging to perform daily tasks. The lack of activity gradually leads to further muscle loss and fat deposition, leading to difficulty walking and climbing stairs as they used to do.
Sarcopenia is a natural process, which may also be due to some underlying issues. In some cases, pre-existing muscle loss may get aggravated by these factors.
Obesity- Obesity occurs when fat cells accumulate in place of muscle cells, leading to a significant fall in strength. A sedentary lifestyle and eating habits may also influence this condition.
Chronic Conditions- Chances of sarcopenia arise in chronic conditions affecting the respiratory tract, heart, and kidney and are also related to cancer, diabetes, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
Inactivity- Muscles tend to become active if challenges are provided. Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle increases muscle loss, as it provides no challenge to the muscle, negatively affecting strength.
Arthritis- Inflammation and pain are the common symptoms of arthritis (painful joints), which decreases activeness. Lack of physical activity and the accumulation of inflammatory cells causes muscle wastage and sarcopenia.
Insulin Resistance- In the case of insulin resistance, the stored lipid or fat accumulates due to altered fat metabolism. This accumulation happens in skeletal muscles and may lead to sarcopenia. It is mainly seen in people with type 2 diabetes.
Hormonal Changes- Age-related decline in levels of testosterone, thyroid hormone, and vitamin D are also associated with sarcopenia.
Malnutrition- Malnutrition associated with age is related to decreased protein intake leading to a decline in muscle mass. It is because dietary intake usually decreases with age due to dietary restrictions or other factors.
Neurological Factor- Lowered number of healthy nerve cells and raised damaged cells results in altered conduction of messages through the brain, causing decreased or lack of proper muscle movement, leading to sarcopenia
How to Stay Strong in Older Age?
Bringing a healthy lifestyle to action is challenging but effective in strengthening old age. It includes the following measures:
Doing physical activities and exercises.
Proper nutrition intake.
Taking required diet supplements.
Seeking medical help if needed.
What Are Some Physical Exercises Performed in Old Age?
Physical activities include doing house chores, gardening, or carrying groceries. Working out or exercising is a preplanned and structured physical activity focusing on improving fitness and strength. Routine physical activities keep the individual moving for an actual cause: facing the workout challenges. Exercising can be done in different ways:
Strength Training- This type of workout improves muscle strength by forcing the muscles to build and develop against a resisting force. It can be done in different ways, either at home or at the gym. Weight training can be performed using resistance bands, free weights, weight machines, or body weights. Resistance or strength training increases muscle mass and strength.
What Is the Importance of a Balanced Diet?
A balanced diet includes adequate amounts of all the nutrients. Unbalanced food habits in old age are mainly due to altered taste, chewing difficulties, dietary restrictions, and other factors. But health comes only if the plate becomes vibrant and colorful. Adding different colors to the diet in the form of vegetables and fruits make the food pattern enjoyable. Likewise, fish, meat, seeds, and nuts can provide wholesome to the diet. But dietary restrictions should be considered, and advice from an expert nutritionist will help to stay even healthier and more vital during old age. Along with the type of food included, quantity is also essential. Plating should follow only the required quantity of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and other nutrients. Overeating is always the villain.
Can Protein Build Strength?
Skeletal muscle is made up of protein, and insufficient protein intake leads to muscular atrophy and loss of muscle mass. Conversely, adequate protein intake is necessary to increase muscle activity, strength, and functioning. Protein requirement is higher in older than younger people because of inadequate intake and impaired utilization. Meat, egg, fish, poultry, and dairy food are good protein sources. Qualitative strength training with protein intake is the key to strong aging.
Why Are Diet Supplements Important?
Aging leads to a decrease in affection towards food leading to malnutrition. Deficiencies can increase the chances of injuries and prolong the healing time. Taking medical help will assist in understanding the deficiencies and the type of diet supplements to be used.
How to Understand Muscle Weakness?
The healthcare practitioner may diagnose the loss of muscle strength by carrying out several tests.
Handgrip Test- It measures the strength of the muscles of the hands and forearms.
Chair Stand Test- Measures leg muscle strength, particularly the quadriceps.
Walking Speed Test- This test measures the time taken to travel four meters.
Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB)- Here, three timed tasks are to be performed; handgrip test, chair stand test, and walking speed test.
Timed-up and Go Test (TUG)- The TUG test measures the time taken to rise from a chair, walk three meters towards and away from the chair, and sit back.
Sarcopenia or muscle strength loss is not a disease or a disorder but a natural and gradual change. Eating healthy and staying active can modify this condition. However, if the severity increases affecting the quality of life, seek medical help and undergo the required treatments. A well-expert nutritionist, a physical instructor, and a doctor make the best team to assist an individual to age healthily.