Versatile to the core, muscles are the ultimate multitaskers. They enable movement, support organ function and boost metabolism. But it's a fact of life that we start to lose our muscles when we get older.
But what happens if you lose too much muscle?
"You have more than 600 muscles in your body, which accounts for up to 40 percent of your body weight — that's almost half of you," explains Suzette Pereira, Ph.D., a researcher specializing in ageing and muscle health at Abbott. "While ageing is natural, losing too much muscle is not and can directly impact your mobility, strength and energy levels, immune system and even organ function."
Advanced muscle loss, or sarcopenia, is one of the most important health problems facing the elderly, according to the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders. Muscle loss doesn't happen overnight, but it's important to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
From Lean Muscle to Muscle Loss
If you're out of breath by the time you reach the top of the stairs, walking slower than normal, have recently been ill — or even hospitalised — and have lost weight, then you might be losing muscle.
The Hindustan Times reports that up to 71 percent of Indians have poor muscle health, likely due to protein deficiency. While it's easy to attribute a protein deficiency to a vegetarian diet, poor muscle health is as likely to be caused by sedentary lifestyle, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Muscle loss is common, but sarcopenia is serious. Sarcopenia can begin affecting your body when you're in your mid-40s, when strength and muscle mass begin to decline. Research has found that muscles become smaller and weaker and frailer as you age, the Hindustan Times reports, which can lead to frailty and even disability. And the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders reports that sarcopenia affects about 10 percent of men and women over 60.
Keeping in Shape
Just because muscle loss is a natural part of aging doesn't mean you can't work to prevent it. There are plenty of easy lifestyle adjustments you can make to ensure you're staying strong and healthy as you age.
- Exercise regularly, including cardio and resistance training.
- Aim to eat a source of lean protein with every meal.
- Include various sources of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats in your diet.
- Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement like HMB — beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate — a naturally occurring compound that supports muscle health.
By being proactive, you can help keep your muscles healthy so you always have the strength you need to do all of the things you enjoy.
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