What Causes Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is a condition that leads to loss of muscle tone and strength due to aging. Older people who do not engage in sufficient physical exercise are most commonly affected, but others can experience symptoms as well. This diagnosis is not inevitable and symptoms can be partially or totally reversed or even prevented with the right type of exercise and other changes to the lifestyle.


Sarcopenia can be recognized by the frailty and weakness seen in elderly people. Loss of muscle mass leads to many symptoms such as obesity, difficulty walking or moving about, lack of strength and respiratory problems. These problems can render an older person unable to take care of daily duties without the supervision of a family member, nurse or other caretaker. Lack of physical exercise coupled with a reduction of certain important hormones in the body can lead to this condition, so the introduction of an exercise routine during middle age can help to prevent symptoms. There are several important forms of exercise that are helpful for both prevention and reversal of symptoms.


While the largest contributing factor to sarcopenia is lack of exercise, there are other processes in the body that tend to slow or stop as the body ages, and may contribute to symptoms. A decrease in the production of certain hormones, such as the growth hormone, testosterone and an insulin-like growth factor can directly effect muscle strength. Additionally as the body ages, the ability of the body to synthesize proteins decreases. Inadequate intake of the proper proteins and other healthy nutrients can contribute, therefore improvements to diet and removal of toxic substances from the body can decrease the risk of sarcopenia.


All types of exercise have been shown to benefit people with sarcopenia, but there are a few methods that have been proven to work quickly and successfully. Resistance training, above all, helps to restore range of motion, allowing the muscles and joints to strengthen gradually and progressively. Resistance training can be accomplished with specialized machines or techniques using the body. Balance training, flexibility training and cardiovascular exercise have also been shown to be beneficial, not only for reducing the effects of sarcopenia, but for improving overall health in general. It is optimal to implement an exercise routine that involves all three types of exercise, and a professional with experience in this type of training can help with the proper setup of the details.

Other Treatment Options

While exercise is by far the best treatment for symptoms of sarcopenia, there are other options that may be considered. Many of these alternative treatments involve medication or hormone replacement therapies and should be used as a supplement to resistance training and other exercise, not as a replacement. Because of the possibility for side effects with traditional medication, it’s very important to consider all factors before deciding on a plan. The successful effects of certain types of hormone replacement are currently being researched, as is a drug called Urocortin II.


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