The sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass fundamentally associated with age. As we age, from 30-40, there is a loss of 1% of muscle tissue each year. From the age of 60 it increases to 1.5% per year. Discover in this post how to detect it and what to do to stop its progression and improve your quality of life.
The age | a key factor
The mechanisms that lead to the decrease in muscle mass are not exactly known, but it is known that this process causes a decreased fast motor units, leading to loss of muscle fibers or their reinnervation by slow motor units.
The muscles they turn smaller and slower. It is, therefore, a muscular dysfunction that would be mainly related to age.
This is especially relevant because affects the quality of life and autonomy of the elderly. Less muscle mass favors loss of balance and increases the risk of bone fractures.
In addition, muscle tissue is beginning to be considered as an endocrine organ in itself, since its functions are complex and it is involved in multiple processes that contribute to internal homeostasis and the proper functioning of metabolism and the immune system.
Diagnosis of sarcopenia
The specialist evaluates the degree of sarcopenia through simple tests that measure physical performance. The diagnosis is made when:
- The walking speed is less than 1 m / s over 6 meters or 0.8 m / s over 4 meters.
- With the test SPPB. This test assesses the patient’s balance, walking speed, and the patient’s ability to stand.
- The ability to perform a series of simple maneuvers, assessed by the tug-test, is diminished. This clinical test consists of getting up from a chair with armrests, walking about three meters to a reference point, turning around and sitting down again.
Tests of grip or extension and flexion of the knees are also usually performed.
Muscle mass assessment
Muscle atrophy can be diagnosed by measuring the limb muscle circumference.
Another simple and inexpensive method is bio-impedance, which reports on the distribution of lean mass and body fat according to the resistance of the tissues to the passage of a low-intensity current.
Lastly, the medical imaging tests (scanner, DEXA, or MRI scanner) are more accurate, but are rarely used in routine practice.
Diet in older adults
Dietary and lifestyle factors are very important in the sarcopenia progression.
Loss of appetite is common in older adults. Anorexia can be caused by the influence of medication, mood, changes in sensory perception, or chewing or swallowing difficulties (dysphagia).
This group is often polymedicated. Many active ingredients influence nutritional status, directly or indirectly affecting appetite, acting on satiety centers, causing changes in taste perception or interfering with the absorption of some essential nutrients, which can cause a nutritional deficit.
On the other hand, certain gastrointestinal pathologies such as diarrhea or chronic constipation, infection, severe burns or hospital admission are also associated with altered nutritional status, with increased protein catabolism.
This causes, as a consequence, the loss of muscle mass and an increased risk of sarcopenia, bone and cell decline that exacerbate the fragility of older adults.
In this sense, care should be taken to maintain a sufficient intake of high biological value proteins in each of the 5 meals, taking into account that the presentation and palatability of the dishes are adequate.
Exercise adapted to the patient with sarcopenia
The practice of strength physical exercise It is essential from childhood, as the first measure of prevention of sarcopenia.
However, continuing to practice physical exercise throughout life is essential to maintain muscle tissue, delay its loss as much as possible and even recover strength and power after convalescence in adulthood.
Depending on the age and physical condition of the person, cardiovascular exercise and muscle toning routines should be promoted to stimulate muscle mass.
In older people, simple movements such as going up and down stairs or getting up from a chair often represent their maximum strength capacity.
The exercises designed for this group should work your legs, as they promote their independence and stimulate large muscle groups with simple, everyday movements.
It has been shown that 4 days of training of strength, 3 alternate days a week, improve muscle strength and therefore the autonomy of older adults.
These simple workouts can be done perfectly at home. An example would be knee extensions from a seated position or ankle brace exercises to stimulate the foot and calf muscles, repeated in a circuit lasting 8-10 minutes.
Optionally, the arms can also be worked with opening exercises with an elastic band or balls to exert pressure with the hands.
Finally, it should be remembered that integrating the appropriate exercise and diet habits, together and in a complementary manner, favors greater efficacy than the approach of only one of them.