All the things we value in life – looking good, feeling fit and active, staying disease-free, being productive and successful at work, enjoying leisure activities with friends and family – all have only one arch enemy: Aging!! No matter how hard you may try to hold your ground and walk ahead, there is always age and stress pulling you back. Even as we have altered technologies to increase longevity, technology has altered our lifestyle to make us age faster.
Think about it! What is the ONE thing you have that:
1. Keeps you from growing old?
2. Keeps you in great shape?
3. Makes you fitter and stronger?
‘Sarcopenia’ (meaning ‘muscle loss’) is an age-related loss of skeletal muscle usually accompanied by increase in visceral fat and total body fat. For obvious reasons, the drop in lean body mass due to sarcopenia leads to a drop in strength, balance, co-ordination and functional abilities and increases risk of falls and fractures with an eventual loss of independence in the elderly.
But don’t be fooled that you need to worry about aging and muscle loss only when you’re old! A study of physically healthy men from 15 to 83 years of age showed that muscle atrophy actually begins right from 25 years of age and accelerates thereafter.
Sarcopenia is attributed mainly to a higher rate of catabolism and a slower rate of protein synthesis in older individuals, especially in older women, resulting in a negative nitrogen balance. This is a result of age-related changes such as a drop in the anabolic hormones (testosterone, growth hormone and estrogen) and an increase in insulin resistance.
The two catalysts that accelerate sarcopenia and muscle weakness are: a sedentary lifestyle and a protein-deficient diet. “Use it or lose it” is a simple adaptive policy of the human body! Disuse of the muscles due to reduced physical activity at any age leads to muscle loss which is worsened if the diet is also deficient in protein – the building block of the muscle. Low protein intakes, even less than the RDA, are common in vegetarian diets or cereal-based diets and in many older persons with a reduced appetite.
As you grow older, disuse has even more dire consequences! At an older age, inactivity affects not just the muscles but also the neuronal function and hampers neuromuscular recovery from immobilization or disuse. It turns out that lazing around when you are 20 years old will not do you as much harm as inactivity at the age of 40!
(This is an original article written by Gauri Murthy)