What Is Sarcopenia? Understanding Sarcopenia In Older Adults



Human bodies start to work a little slower as they age. It’s just a fact of life. That said, the process of aging doesn’t always have to move as fast as you might think. 

One piece of the aging puzzle is something called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia in older adults is a very natural thing, but modern science and understanding of the human body pose some insights into how it can be combated. 

We’re going to explore the idea of sarcopenia in this article, giving you some ideas on how to improve your physical health and remain independent in old age. 

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is a disease that everyone is affected by at some point in their lives. Generally speaking, it is the process of losing muscle mass and strength as we age. Sarcopenia causes our bodily functions to slow down gradually, leading to immobility in old age. 

This is not a curable disease, and it’s one that’s so normal that we all kind of prepare for its onset. The distinction between the terms “aging” and “sarcopenia” is that sarcopenia pertains strictly to the loss of muscle and strength. 

Interestingly, our muscular systems are intimately tied to almost all of the other functions in our bodies. That means that the onset of sarcopenia typically leads to the breaking down of other essential pieces of human life. 

Is Sarcopenia in Older Adults Only?

Sarcopenia can begin at different times for different people. Generally, though, the process of muscle loss begins in a person’s 30s or 40s. When sarcopenia begins depends on a person’s genes.

If you’re experiencing significant muscle and strength loss in your teens or 20s, that could be a sign of any number of distinctly different physical illnesses. It could also mean that your lifestyle is lacking in proper nutrition and exercise. 

Muscles will naturally lose mass if you aren’t using them or giving them the nutrients they need. 

Generally, though, people start to experience the loss of mass around middle age and the process continues throughout the rest of the life cycle. More elderly individuals are experiencing immobility nowadays, though, and the reason is an interesting one. 

Activity in Old Age

Sarcopenia has always been a part of human life. At the same time, the loss of mobility at such early ages is not normal. At a point in human history, people had to move in order to survive. 

Not only did we have to walk everywhere and fight off predators when they engaged with us, but we also had to constantly move to take care of essential responsibilities and forage for food. That movement was synonymous with human life.

It meant using all of the muscle groups in meaningful ways in order to contribute to the benefit of the group. Through that process, we survived and stayed in healthy shape. 

The need for movement isn’t there anymore. We can live overwhelmingly sedentary lives and still be fine for the early years of our lives before our bodies start to be affected. Our bodies, though, are the same even though our environment is different. 

Our bodies are very economical. If we have a mass that we don’t use, our bodies start to break them down to free up weight and energy. That’s why our muscles atrophy when we don’t use them at all. 

So, on top of natural sarcopenia, old age is made far less mobile when you couple it with a sedentary lifestyle. 

How to Combat Sarcopenia

We’ve all met someone who lived into their 80s and 90s with complete mobility. Those people are so impressive because most people don’t get to that point with such freedom. 

It’s possible for all of us to grow into old age with a high degree of mobility, though. The two key components of that potential are nutrition and physical activity.

Staying Active

Going to the gym every single day might not be your thing. That is totally fine. There are millions of ways for people to get enough exercise to stay healthy and fight off excessive muscle loss. 

Whether that means going for a walk three times a week, golfing with your friends, or practicing baseball with your grandson whenever you get the chance, you should seek out opportunities to get active. 

At the same time, dedicating yourself to a workout plan might be the best way to fight sarcopenia. Going to the gym allows you to target muscle groups specifically and engage in controlled sessions of cardio. 

Before you make the decision to work out in any particular way, it might be wise to consult with your doctor. Your doctor can tell you where you need to put the most work in and why. 

Additionally, they’ll be able to give insightful recommendations that keep you from hurting yourself or overdoing anything. Keep in mind that the potential for injury increases as we get into old age.

Eating Well

You don’t have to cut all of the pleasurable foods out of your diet in order to be healthy. The point is to watch your diet and make those slip-ups the exception, not the rule. 

A well-rounded diet includes a healthy amount of complete proteins, greens, grains, and dairy or an alternative. Your personal situation might require you to fine-tune dietary intake to address health concerns, and there are a lot of differing opinions on what constitutes a great diet

At the same time, we can be sure that cooking our own food quicker options will lead to a healthier diet. We can also be positive that sugary candies and sodas are going to contribute negatively to our health. 

Consult with your doctor about potential dietary options as well and see just what you should be putting into your body to keep your muscles functioning as well as possible. 

Want to Learn More?

Aging is a complex process. Whether you’re trying to understand sarcopenia in older adults or how to treat a specific age-related illness, we’re here to help. 

Explore our site for more insight into lifestyle choices and ways to live your best life.