Diseases of Age: Taking a Closer Look at Sarcopenia

As time passes, things change. It’s inevitable and a natural part of life. These changes can be positive, like developing compassion for others, learning new things, and gaining strength through exercise. These changes can also be negative, like cognitive and physical decline due to age.

The process of aging comprises a variety of changes in the body and the mind. These changes occur across different systems – circulatory, muscular and neurological – and not all occur at the same time. Many age-related changes are under our control, and there are things we can do to slow down, stop or even revert them.

One example of this is a condition called “sarcopenia.” Characterized by a reduction in a person’s existing muscle mass, its onset generally begins by the time a person turns forty and can get progressively worse with advanced age. While it is largely recognized as inevitable, there are in fact ways to help minimize its effects.

What Causes Sarcopenia?

While diminishing muscle mass is a natural part of getting older, certain individuals are more vulnerable to the effects of this disorder. Both biological men and women are equally prone to developing sarcopenia, and up to twenty percent of the adult population will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime.

As it stands, one of the most common variables of those facing sarcopenia is a sedentary lifestyle. Staying active through cardiovascular exercise and strength training has been shown to reduce the incidence, but even physically fit people can wind up with sarcopenia if they don’t maintain musculoskeletal stimulation.

Because of this, researchers suspect that other factors may be responsible for this condition. One such hypothesis is a loss in a particular type of nerve cell that sends the message from the brain to keep the musculature engaged. Having a lower amount of certain types of hormones (such as testosterone and IGF-1) can also lead to sarcopenia. 

Finally, diet may also play a considerable role. People who do not consume enough protein in their diet, or only eat low-quality protein sources, may be more likely to develop it. Ensuring intake, as well as highly bioavailable protein, can help offset sarcopenia.

The Common Signs of Sarcopenia

The effects of sarcopenia can be life changing. The leading symptom of this condition is reduced muscle strength and mass which can lead to increased difficulty doing everyday activities. Some of the more prevalent signs and symptoms of sarcopenia include:

  • Poor balance
  • Increased falls
  • Slower gait
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Difficulty in climbing stairs
  • Less stamina

If left untreated, it can be difficult to maintain independence. In turn, not being able to carry out recreational activities can create a significant decline in quality of life. 

If a person has any other comorbidity (such as diabetes or heart disease, obesity, or use of alcohol or tobacco products), it can worsen the condition. 

Treating Sarcopenia

Since sarcopenia is a chronic, degenerative disorder, treatment needs to be equally proactive. One of the first lines of defense in reducing the symptoms of sarcopenia is none other than lifestyle changes. This includes moderating diets and increasing physical activity like resistance training. 

Researchers at Klotho are also working on novel treatment options for sarcopenia by relying upon the body’s own innate defenses against it. The eponymous gene has been shown to be highly correlated with longevity and good health, and administration of it holds the possibility to offset some of the effects of sarcopenia.

Ultimately, sarcopenia does not necessarily need to lead to a reduced quality of life or progressive illness. Through proper lifestyle management – and taking measures to address the symptomatology of this disorder – a healthy and robust life is more than possible.