Most of us think of muscle loss happening when we’re in our 70s and 80s – the time of life when frailty and lack of independence overtake us. Indeed, although we feel invincible in our younger years, muscle loss will happen to us all. It’s only a matter of time. And, unfortunately for some us, it may happen sooner than later.
Muscle mass begins to decline, according to researchers, in the 40s and continues faster into the 50s. So, although you might not yet be “frail”, muscle loss is a concern for many of us. It makes it harder to run that 10k, enjoy taking care of the lawn, and eventually can cause bladder problems, among many other problems.
Doctors still don’t know why muscle loss happens. Yet, they do know that there are certain things you can do to prevent some of the effects. You can do this before it starts setting in and even when your muscle mass has already started to decline.
Understanding Muscle Loss
When you start to lose muscle mass as you age, it’s called sarcopenia. It’s fairly normal for everyone, but the rate of decline varies. And, it’s still frustrating nonetheless. While an avid runner may be able to knock out three miles in under 30 minutes in their youth, when sarcopenia sets it, it may take them longer.
Sarcopenia makes it difficult to move efficiently, enjoy exercise, recover from physical activity, and even recover from illness. Ultimately, it’ll make it difficult to have independence as you get older.
Usually, muscle loss is not something to be too concerned with if you’re already a healthy and active individual. However, if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle with poor nutrition, you could be leading to massive life-changing muscle loss.
Doctors aren’t certain what causes sarcopenia. However, they do know that inactivity, poor nutrition, dietary inflammation and changes in hormones can all contributed to the condition. Hormonal changes, in particular, are most likely the culprit for aging women as they go through menopause around the same time that sarcopenia sets in.
Steps To Take In Preventing Sarcopenia
No, you can’t prevent muscle loss entirely. However, there’s plenty you can do today before sarcopenia sets in to prevent or lessen many of its effects. In fact, even if you are currently experiencing muscle loss, you can slow down its effects by following a healthier lifestyle.
What does this entail?
It means exercising frequently – at least 30 minutes a day. In a sedentary life, you should be active even more than 30 minutes a day. Depending on how much you sit, you should aim for at least 50 minutes as the human body was not made to be sedentary. Your muscles and heart need to work to maintain health and fitness. The more active you can be, the better. And, although the recommendation is made to at least walk, you should also incorporate some amount of resistance training – i.e., weight training – to really lessen the effects of sarcopenia.
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Nutrition is also another important factor in slowing the decline of muscle loss. Eating a high carb and high sugar diet causes a lot of inflammation in the body. As the body fights the inflammation, it causes it to work harder which makes the body function less efficiently. When the body has to work hardly than it needs to, it causes more stress on the muscles, which in turn can lead to a decline in muscle mass.
Furthermore, the muscles need nutrition to function efficiently. When you deprive your muscles of nutrition, it’s like depriving your body of oxygen. It becomes hard to function. Researchers believe that insufficient protein could be a contributing factor in sarcopenia. Eating enough protein from meat and fish, as well as rice and beans, can slow down the effects of muscle loss.
You need both nutrition and exercise to prevent the effects of muscle loss. The familiar saying “Use it or Lose it” is pretty accurate. So, use your muscles, exercising them properly, and eat right so that you don’t lose it.