Three stages to age-related muscle loss...and how to avoid it.

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

A recent article published by the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP)(1) used the following chart to illustrate how we lose muscle strength over time.

Muscle strength and the life course. To prevent or delay sarcopenia development, maximise muscle in youth and young adulthood, maintain muscle in middle age and minimise loss in older age

From your mid-thirties onwards, there is a gradual decline in both muscle strength and muscle mass. According to the EWGSOP, Sarcopenia is now considered a muscle disease with high personal, social and economic burdens when untreated.

Specifically, sarcopenia(2):

  • increases your risk of falls and fractures

  • impairs your ability to perform activities of daily living

  • is associated with cardiac disease, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment

  • leads to reduced mobility, loss of independence or need for long-term care placement

  • contributes to lowering your quality of life

  • and is associated with early death.

The article also considers sarcopenia in financial terms. For example the presence of sarcopenia increases the both the risk for hospitalisation and increases cost of care during hospitalisation. It goes on to say that
"among older adults who are hospitalised, those with sarcopenia on admission were more than 5-fold more likely to have higher hospital costs than those without sarcopenia...regardless of whether they were younger or older than 65 years."

So how can you stay above the threshold for low physical performance and maintain your healthy, active lifestyle?

The group recommend:

"While genetic and lifestyle factors can hasten muscle weakening and progression toward functional impairment and disability, interventions including nutrition and exercise training seem to slow or reverse these processes. Therefore, to prevent or delay sarcopenia, the aim is to maximise muscle in youth and young adulthood, maintain muscle in middle age and minimise loss in older age." (3)

Muscle maintenance in middle age is key to staying strong in older age, and we'll explore optimal strategies to achieve that in later posts.

1. Alfonso J Cruz-Jentoft, Gülistan Bahat, Jürgen Bauer, Yves Boirie, Olivier Bruyère, Tommy Cederholm, Cyrus Cooper, Francesco Landi, Yves Rolland, Avan Aihie Sayer, Stéphane M Schneider, Cornel C Sieber, Eva Topinkova, Maurits Vandewoude, Marjolein Visser, Mauro Zamboni, Writing Group for the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People 2 (EWGSOP2), and the Extended Group for EWGSOP2; Sarcopenia: revised European consensus on definition and diagnosis, Age and Ageing, , afy169,

2. adapted from ibid

3. ibid

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