Are You Losing Muscle as You Age? How to Stop Age-Related Muscle Loss |

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Many of us work diligently to protect our cognitive and bone health as we age. But another critical aspect of wellness that many overlook is age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia, a silent progression that can significantly impact daily life and independence.

In this article, we’ll explore the causes of sarcopenia, and natural tips to stop age-related muscle loss and build a healthier, stronger future, as recommended by renowned neurosurgeon and athlete, Dr. Joseph Maroon.

Understanding age-related loss of muscle mass

The biology of sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is a natural part of the aging process. Studies show that, as we age, our bodies face challenges in synthesizing proteins efficiently, leading to a decline in muscle regeneration.

The mechanisms behind this change in protein synthesis are an area of ongoing research. But they’re likely multifactored, influenced by:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Emerging health conditions
  • Inflammation
  • Changes in muscle and nerve interactions
  • Age-related alterations in cellular function and hormonal balance

Research suggests we experience a steady decline in muscle mass–about 3 to 8% each decade–starting at age 30, with the pace accelerating after age 60.

Aging and sarcopenia’s impact on daily life

Age-related loss of muscle mass can drastically change our daily lives, making simple tasks like standing, walking, or grocery shopping a challenge. And it’s not just about losing strength.

It’s also about reduced endurance, leading to fatigue and a higher risk of falls and bone fractures. But by knowing where you stand and adopting the right habits, you can prevent and even reverse the effects of sarcopenia.

“I’m in the fourth quarter of life myself and working diligently to maintain my own muscle mass,” Dr. Maroon says. “Thankfully, muscle mass is super easy to measure so you can forecast where you’re headed.”

How to stop age-related muscle loss naturally

Measure your grip.

The first step in age-related muscle loss prevention and reversal is finding out where you stand. To do this, Dr. Maroon recommends measuring the strength of your grip.

While some research suggests grip strength alone may not provide a complete picture of muscle mass, it’s a great indicator–especially in older adults. It can provide valuable insights into muscle function and overall health.

Beyond its role in assessing muscle health, greater grip strength is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues. Studies show that among those with high blood pressure, people with a stronger grip face lower risks of heart attacks and death from cardiovascular events.

“You can buy an inexpensive grip strength dynamometer online for about $20 that will give you a baseline,” Dr. Maroon says. From there, some simple, impactful lifestyle shifts can improve your muscle health–regardless of your age.

Eat mindfully.

A balanced diet rich in lean proteins, fresh produce, and whole grains is essential for nurturing muscle strength and overall vitality.

Research has linked certain nutrients to age-related muscle loss prevention and management, including:

  • Proteins (found in chicken, turkey, legumes, and certain grains like quinoa)
  • Vitamin D (found in salmon and fortified beverages like milk and 100% orange juice)
  • Antioxidants, such as vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, peppers, and strawberries)
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3 (found in fish, such as salmon and tuna)

A diet laden with processed foods, excessive sugar, and unhealthy additives doesn’t just harm your muscles. It’s a recipe for inflammation and, therefore, a decline in overall health. So choose your meals carefully, and focus on natural, nutrient-rich options.

Take a supplement for muscle health.

Since we lose the ability to process protein efficiently as we age, eating lots of high-quality proteins is not enough to stop age-related muscle loss.

Dr. Maroon says combining certain supplements with dietary protein is the key. Specifically, HMB (Beta‐hydroxy‐beta‐methylbutyrate) and vitamin D3 support the body’s ability to synthesize protein and reduce protein breakdown. HMB is a compound derived from an essential amino acid called leucine.

A year-long study on adults over 60 revealed that the combination of HMB and vitamin D3 significantly improves muscle function and increases energy levels–even in the absence of exercise. However, added energy can inspire more motivation to exercise, which is also highly beneficial.

Keep moving.

“Many people stop exercising because they get older; what they don’t realize is that they get older because they stop exercising,” Dr. Maroon cautions.

Physical activity is key, not just for muscle strength and mass, but also for mental sharpness–especially in seniors. A balanced exercise regimen that benefits muscle health includes:

  • Strength training, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands
  • Cardiovascular exercises, including dancing, walking, and bicycling
  • Flexibility workouts like stretching or yoga

Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, including strength-training activities twice a week.

Avoid toxins.

Dr. Maroon points out that toxins can also be detrimental for muscle health. Some common ones to avoid are:

  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Indoor air pollution (the deterioration of indoor air quality due to harmful chemicals and substances)

These toxins can interfere with muscle regeneration and even response to certain medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. For example, many harmful compounds in cigarette smoke exacerbate conditions like sarcopenia by increasing the presence of harmful toxins in the body.

So reducing your exposure to these toxins is an essential step in protecting your muscle health.

Prioritize age-related muscle loss prevention and management

Age-related muscle loss is a natural part of growing older. But it doesn’t need to define your later years. You can retain your strength and vitality with a comprehensive, holistic approach that encompasses nutrition, supplementation, physical activity, and overall clean, healthy living.

“Everything you do in your life involves your muscles,” Dr. Maroon says. “Allowing them to gradually diminish jeopardizes your ability to live life on your terms.” So take good care of your muscle health, and dramatically improve the quality of your golden years.


How to Protect Against Age-Related Muscle Loss

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