Man and woman using weights

How to Avoid Sarcopenia or Muscle Loss in Aging

Sarcopenia, or muscle loss related to aging, is common for seniors over 60. This condition can cause you to feel off-balance, make it difficult to walk and can even cause falls. However, by taking action now, you can often prevent or even reverse the effects of sarcopenia on your body.

What Is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is defined as muscle loss in aging individuals. More specifically, this condition is a type of muscle atrophy that is categorized as progressive muscle loss that happens continuously.

While sarcopenia can affect any senior, it is most commonly seen in people over 60 — and even more prevalent in those over 80. Because there are few people who receive a diagnosis for this disease, no one knows how many seniors today are living with this condition. However, it is estimated that up to 50% of people over the age of 80 have sarcopenia.

The Symptoms of Muscle Atrophy in Seniors

Seniors who experience loss of muscle mass often feel weak and may have difficulty with their mobility as a result. The most common signs of having the disease include weakness, frequent falls and trouble with walking, standing, or climbing stairs.

While there is no medical test that can directly diagnose muscle atrophy, you can consult a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. Often, providers ask you to try various muscle strength tests, like a walking speed test, to determine if you may have muscle atrophy.

Can Muscle Loss in Seniors Be Prevented or Reversed?

While muscle loss due to aging cannot always be entirely prevented, there are many things you can do to slow its progression. These steps can also reverse muscle atrophy in some cases, which can prevent you from feeling the symptoms associated with muscle loss.

Choose Healthy Nutrition

Eating nutritious foods that are rich in proteins can help you build or rebuild muscle mass no matter your age. While the recommended amount of protein for your body will vary, most seniors should get between 20 and 35 grams of protein at every meal, typically three times a day.

Some foods high in protein include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and leafy greens. Dairy also contains good amounts of protein but should be eaten in moderation since it can also be high in saturated fats. For those who find that dietary protein is not enough, supplements may be available.

Create an Exercise Regimen

Resistance-based strength training is often recommended for seniors to help prevent and sometimes reverse muscle loss. You can exercise with resistance bands, which act like large rubber bands, or with weights to slow muscle loss. This works by challenging your muscles, which will grow over time in response to your training.

If you aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to exercise for seniors, look for a physical therapist or fitness instructor who can help. Often, resistance-based fitness classes are available for seniors to join within communities like The Buckingham.

Follow Up with a Healthcare Provider

Before you start any new diet or fitness regimen, it’s best to speak with your primary healthcare provider. Your provider can give you tips on how to help slow muscle atrophy and possibly refer you to other healthcare providers, such as a nutritionist, to help you set and reach your goals.

As you progress with a healthy exercise and diet routine, you should check in with your healthcare providers to ensure your body is responding well to prevention or treatment.

If you or a family member is dealing with symptoms of sarcopenia, consider making the move to a trusted senior living community that can support you. The Buckingham is Houston’s leading retirement living community with on-site fitness facilities, weekly fitness classes and personal trainers who can specifically tailor a program to help improve muscle mass. The Buckingham offers independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing living options with multiple dining options for healthy nutrition, planned activities and exceptional amenities and services.