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What Causes Muscle Loss as We Age?

Happy senior woman exercising at home

Feel like your strength and stamina aren’t what they used to? Does it take all your might these days to get up out of a chair or finish a game of pickleball? Muscle loss may be catching up with you. We’ve all heard about how bone density decreases as we get older (osteopenia/osteoporosis). The fact is your musculature decreases as well. Muscle loss in seniors is inevitable. The condition even has a name–sarcopenia. While it’s natural to have this decline, there are things you can do to combat the effects of the decline and even slow it to some extent.

 

Why Muscle Matters as You Age

 Somewhere around age 40 it begins to happen. An imbalance of neurological signals and a decline in hormone production that starts the decline of muscle mass. If you’re a “couch potato,” the process happens even faster.  Muscle loss in seniors is so common that, by the 80s, the average man or woman has lost up to 50% of their muscle mass.

 While you can’t turn back the clock (some degree of muscle loss is inevitable no matter how active you are as a senior), you can take steps to fight back. But why should you care? One of the biggest reasons is this: Muscle loss and lack of muscle strength are two of the primary reasons for falls. Even more frightening, falls are the number one cause of accidental death in people over 65.

 

Steps You Can Start Taking  Today

 A sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are contributing factors to how quickly muscle loss in seniors accelerates. That said, there are three keys to maintaining muscle mass and even building it up again:

 

  1. Consuming protein regularly–Healthy protein comes from milk, cheese, eggs, poultry, fish, peanuts, and beans, among other foods. As an example of protein intake, a person who weighs 165 pounds should consume 60 g of protein a day.

  

  1. Choosing complex carbohydrates–Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are the best sources of complex carbs, which give you the energy needed to exercise and supply the vitamins your body needs. The more processed the food is, (i.e., most food that comes out of a box or from a drive-thru window) the fewer nutrients you’ll get from it.

 

  1. Getting regular, varied exercise–A combination of aerobic exercises and low-intensity strength training is essential for combating muscle loss in seniors. Walking, lifting light weights, dancing, tai chi, etc. will all work your heart and, most importantly, your large muscle groups, and are ideal pursuits for older adults. When you live in a senior community like Crestwood Manor in Whiting, New Jersey, you have access to a wide variety of free classes and fitness equipment to help you maintain your strength and energy.

 

An Enriching Lifestyle Awaits in Our Community.

At Crestwood Manor, the Life Plan Community in Whiting, New Jersey, lifting up our residents in ways that keep them healthy and independent are a top priority. So much so that we offer an award-winning program called LivWell that focuses on whole-person wellness for mind, body, and spirit. Our wellness approach and our variety of classes feature everything needed for vitality and strength as you age. We invite you to contact us for more information and a personal tour.