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Sarcopenia and How To Prevent It

Wanda Siu-Chan
CFS 453
Due: April 29, 2015
David Ruiz

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Abstract:
Sarcopenia is an inevitable condition that happens to everyone. There are
things that make the condition be more severe in others such as hormone
imbalance, poor diet and lack of physical activity. In order to prevent and reverse
the results the best we can is eat a diet with plenty of protein for hormonal
production as well as muscle repair. We also need to engage in physical activity
especially strength training to promote stronger muscle fibers. The combination of
proper diet and physical activity help in mobility and function of everyday life due to
increase in muscle size and strength and also preventing injuries. This combination
also prevents chronic diseases as we get older such as obesity and heart disease as
well as the combination of sarcopenia and obesity.

As we get older, our body goes through several different changes. Some of us lose our
hair, we get wrinkles, we get gray hair and women go through menopause to name a few. We
tend to neglect things at times as we get older such as exercise and eating well balanced meals.
One thing that some people neglect is muscle degradation occurs as we get older. This condition
is known as sarcopenia. This is common as we age and more so in individuals who dont engage
in any physical activity. There is a loss of strength and muscle that can lead to other things such
as fractures from falls, osteoporosis and mobility issues (Becky Dorner, 2012). This is an
important thing for people to know about and realize because we all go through a form of
sarcopenia and its important on what to do in order to prevent the amount that occurs. Around
45% of older adults have sarcopenia and the numbers continue to increase with age (Becky
Dorner, 2012). There are recommended treatments for this age related condition and the most

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important treatment is exercise especially strength training as well as a proper diet with plenty of
protein.
Common with any condition, there are things that are thought to cause the condition of
sarcopenia as we get older. One factor is the decrease of the production of certain hormones that
are responsible for muscle repair and building such as human growth hormone and testosterone.
(Blahd, 2014). Men and women both have an increase in fat deposits because of the decrease in
hormone production primarily in the mid-section (Treacy). Another possibility is the decrease in
nerve signals that allow the brain to communicate with the muscles for mobility (Blahd, 2014).
Then, there is also the inadequate intake of protein in the diet (Blahd, 2014). Protein is
responsible for building new muscle and repairing muscles as well as aiding in the production of
hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone. The elderly are not known for their
nutrition and have poor eating habits due to lack of time, education or income (Treacy). Another
common factor is the bodys ability to synthesize protein and use it properly (Blahd, 2014). As
we get older, it becomes more difficult to build muscle and also recover from exercise because of
all these factors which leads to a longer recovery time than a younger adult (Treacy). The most
common factor that leads to sarcopenia much more quickly is the lack of physical activity.
Without exercise, the muscles dont get stronger for better mobility and balance which can
prevent falls and injuries as we age (Treacy).
There are several factors that can be done in order to slow the progression of sarcopenia
as we age. The best thing we can do is exercise especially strength training. Strength training
helps the muscles become stronger and fuller after the muscles are damaged from exercise and
repaired with diet and rest. There was a study in Boston, Massachusetts that researched muscle
loss with aging and found that the elderly are capable of building muscle even at age 70 (Spano,
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2009). These results are beneficial because many adults struggle doing basic movements such as
getting up, walking for longer periods of time and going up stairs (Michael J. Hewitt, 2003).
About a quarter of adults over the age of 75 found it difficult to walk up ten steps of stairs or
walk a quarter of a mile without stopping due to lack of exercise and muscle deterioration over
time (Brown, 2014).
A typical routine for building lean mass and preventing muscle deterioration includes
weight lifting exercise of three sets with a rep range of 8- 12 (Michael J. Hewitt, 2003). This a
standard blue print bodybuilding exercise repetition range that has been proven to fatigue muscle
and encourage muscle growth by challenging the muscles (Michael J. Hewitt, 2003). This
standard routine can be done with resistance bands, free weights (dumbbells and barbells), using
machines or body weight exercises. All of these are great ways to encourage muscle growth and
all have their pros and cons. Machines and body weight exercises are great for beginners or for
those that havent worked out in a long time because these types of exercises are better at
preventing injury. The cons for these exercises include limited range of motion for the machines
and the body getting used to lifting its own body weight with body weight exercises. Free
weights and resistance bands are for those with weight lifting experience. These exercises are
great for using smaller muscles in aiding the targeted muscle group being exercised and also for
working at a greater range of motion compared to machine exercises. The cons for free weights
would be a higher percentage of injury if the proper weight isnt used with the correct form.
Another strategy for preventing sarcopenia involves proper nutrition. One way to prevent
sarcopenia is by incorporating creatine in the diet. Creatine is known to improve strength as well
as make the muscles more full by retaining water. It helps in strengthening fast twitch muscle
fibers that are used in strength training thus making the individual stronger to exercise and
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engage in regular tasks such as walking and getting up (Brink, 2007). Another common nutrient
to get in the diet is adequate Vitamin D. Vitamin D not only helps promote bone strength, but it
also helps strengthen type II muscle fibers that are the ones known to deteriorate as we age
(Brink, 2007). Low levels of Vitamin D are known to cause improper bone formation and proper
muscle function (Brink, 2007). Many elderly dont get enough Vitamin D due to improper diet
and also due to lack of sunlight from not being outdoors often from limited mobility. Vitamin D
supplementation is highly recommended for those that struggle getting sufficient levels from the
diet and sun (Becky Dorner, 2012).
The most important nutrient needed for sarcopenia prevention is adequate levels of
protein. Protein is responsible for repairing and building muscles, synthesizing enzymes and
hormones, creating antibodies and overall muscle, skin and bone health (The Benefits of Protein,
2004). Some protein rich foods include animal meat, legumes, eggs, dairy and soy. If adequate
protein is still not reached through food, there is also supplementation. Supplementation includes
whey protein and casein protein. Whey protein and casein protein have the same benefits as
eating food with protein but in a way that is easier for some to consume because it is in a liquid
form (Brink, 2007). Whey protein has all the essential amino acids that the body needs for proper
muscle preservation as a combination with strength training (Becky Dorner, 2012). One study
of adults over the age of 50 noted that 27% to 41% of women and 15% to 38% of men consumed
less than the RDA for protein (Becky Dorner, 2012).
Sarcopenic obesity is also a known problem in which two medical issues are combined
within the individual. As we age, we shrink in size and lose muscle so the appearance of fat is
more noticeable as well as retaining fat is easier (Brown, 2014). It is also more difficult to justify
obesity using the BMI because we get shorter as we age and lose muscle mass while maintaining
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fat (Spano, 2009). Being obese as we get older increases the risk of early death and limited
movement especially with the decrease in muscle mass. The rate of sarcopenia is much greater
with those that are obese because of limited movement (Becky Dorner, 2012). This is also related
to metabolic syndrome in which high levels of fat, high glucose levels, high cholesterol, type 2
diabetes and high blood pressure are all mixed in leading to a shorter life a lot quicker.
Sarcopenic obesity has a higher rate of injury and a greater risk of having multiple disabilities
(Yamaguchi, 2012).
Upon researching multiple sources, everyone points to the same things when it comes to
preventing sarcopenia as we age. Everyone agrees that we need higher amounts of protein to help
with multiple functions in the body. We also need a strength routine at least 3 times a week to
build new muscle so that we can become stronger in order to do daily activities and functions. If
we cannot get the proper nutrients through the diet, it is recommended that we use supplements
so that we can be properly nourished.
Sarcopenia is inevitable as we age but there are ways to slow down the process and
prevent it from being a real problem. Strength training is highly the most recommended
treatment because we want our seniors to exercise in order to have a more healthy life. Exercise
promotes fat loss as well which helps prevent obesity among other chronic diseases in order to
prolong life. It also promotes better function of the body and prevents any major injuries by
being more mobile, functional and stronger. Diet is the other major factor in preventing
sarcopenia from being a real problem. With enough protein, we can help repair and build
muscles as we exercise and also synthesize the hormones that aid in building muscle decreasing
the chances of major sarcopenia from occurring.

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References
Becky Dorner, R. L. (2012, September). Nutritions Role in Sarcopenia Prevention.
Retrieved from Today's Dietitian:
http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090112p62.shtml
Blahd, W. (2014, August 3). Sarcopenia With Aging. Retrieved from Web MD:
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/sarcopenia-with-aging
Brink, W. (2007, January). Preventing Sarcopenia. Retrieved from Lef.org:
http://www.lef.org/magazine/2007/1/report_muscle/Page-02?checked=1
Brown, J. E. (2014). Nutrition Through The Life Cycle. Stamford: Cengage Learning.
Michael J. Hewitt, P. (2003, October). Growing Older,Staying Strong Preventing
Sarcopenia Through Strength Training. Retrieved from Scribd.com:
https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/50026485?access_key=key1w30kyib3c9n1hrfxhis&allow_share=false&escape=false&show_recommenda
tions=false&view_mode=scroll
Spano, M. (2009, August 11). How Bodybuilding Can Help You Prevent Sarcopenia!
Retrieved from Bodybuilding.com:
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/preventing_sarcopenia.htm
The Benefits of Protein. (2004). Retrieved from Web MD:
http://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein
Treacy, M. (n.d.). What is Sarcopenia? Retrieved from Age-well.org: http://www.agewell.org/what-is-sarcopenia.html
Yamaguchi, K. S. (2012, November 29). Sarcopenic Obesity and Endocrinal
Adaptation with Age. Retrieved from International Journal of Endocrinology:
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2013/204164/

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