Sarcopenia: The condition you never knew you hated

Forever young?

It’s a common misconception that body aches and muscle pains won’t start until after age 50, or at least whenever “old age” sets in (Spoiler Alert: it’s coming straight at you like a bullet train at 300 MPH). That said, human bodies break down at different speeds with various aches and pains coming and going throughout life. As pains become more frequent or severe, it’s only natural to wonder if a body ache is more serious than a temporary occurrence.

As your 30th birthday approaches, you may want to be more attentive to your body and any changes in muscle strength or feelings of weakness that might occur. You’ve probably never heard of sarcopenia, but it’s the loss of muscle mass that begins around age 30 that affects 10%-20% of adults. As muscle mass decreases so does your strength, which can lead to increased risks of falls, fractures, hospitalizations, post-surgery complications, and possibly even death. Almost 30,000 people over age 64 died in the United States from fall-related causes in 2016. Sarcopenia is considered an age-related condition, so as you get older you can expect to experience a decrease of skeletal muscle mass and stability.

Build muscle, get strong.

Now that you’re aware of the possibility that muscle aches and weakness might be part of a more serious condition, here are some signs to look out for if you are concerned about sarcopenia. Symptoms include: falling, muscle weakness, slower walking speeds, and difficulties overall in completing everyday tasks and activities. Do your muscles feel sore after lifting a bag of groceries? Yeah, consider that a sign that your muscles are weakening. This condition mostly affects older adults, so don’t worry too much if you’re on the younger end of the spectrum and frequently partake in physical activity that keep your muscles moving. As with most medical conditions, there are many contributors to sarcopenia that, according to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study, might include environmental factors, disease, nutrition, low levels of physical activity, hormonal changes, and changes in molecular structure that come with older age.

The older you get, the more you are at risk for experiencing muscle weakness and possibly receiving a sarcopenia diagnosis. This is why it’s important to create healthy habits early, such as resistance training, and take preventative measures early on even if you may not experience any concerning signs of the condition. Women should know that they are more likely to experience a rapid decline in skeletal muscle mass than men due to the interaction of cells within the muscle fibers. So, while everyone should take steps to build and maintain muscle mass as they age, this is especially true for women who are already predisposed to suffer from a deterioration in muscle mass and bone density. It’s never too late to start training, as healthy habits can be started at any age to ensure improved muscle health.

Prioritizing nutrition and health

With this knowledge, what does this mean for those wondering if they will get sarcopenia, and what steps can be taken to avoid or treat this condition? The first step would definitely be checking in with a trusted medical provider that see if sarcopenia is causing your symptoms (as opposed to something else). Unfortunately, there is no medication to cure sarcopenia and no immediate remedy, however changes in diet and exercise habits can significantly improve your symptoms.

Long story short, you can reduce your chances of being affected by sarcopenia by increasing muscle mass as you age. Whether it’s increasing your daily step count, getting some 10-pound weights to work out in the living room, or doing squats in your kitchen while holding a chair, anything you do to move your muscles can help. 

If you would like some support, Sperduti Fitness offers a free 15-minute consultation that can help you make a workout and nutrition plan, while keeping you accountable on your fitness journey. You can stay in touch with our live personal trainers on our Apple or Android apps where you can ask questions, attend virtual group fitness classes, as well as virtual 1-on-1 private training sessions all from the convenience and privacy of your home to avoid the effects of sarcopenia.

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