Tips & Advice

Muscle is the only type of body tissue that does not age if properly maintained!

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Article by Isabelle Marcil, taken from the specialized site Vie de Grands-Parents.

We find that most people lose muscle mass as they age (this phenomenon is known as sarcopenia). Up until recently, the scientific community was in agreement that sarcopenia is primarily caused by aging.

 

But what if we told you that one of the only body tissues with the potential not to fully age is our muscle mass or muscle tissue? In other words, we could have the same body (in terms of muscle mass) at age 80 as we did when we were 20 if we learned how to properly maintain our muscle tissue on a daily basis. Growing numbers of doctors are proving this theory, which is based on muscle physiology. In this regard, the latest journal articles show that sarcopenia is merely a result of our society’s values, overly focused on passive lifestyles. Nowadays, our lives have been made easier thanks to technology and our sedentary office jobs. But as we age, we often forget to take care of our muscle mass, which can lead to serious health problems.

 

Maintaining or increasing our muscle mass

According to Stuart Phillips, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, maintaining or increasing our muscle mass as we age not only fosters physical strength—it also contributes to preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. At the 2019 Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Nutrition and Health Symposium (entitled “Living Long, Living Healthy”), Prof. Phillips advised older people to double their protein consumption. In his opinion, eating more protein contributes to satiety (how full we feel) and thermogenesis (our body’s capacity to burn calories more efficiently), in addition to preventing muscle loss, reducing blood pressure and improving blood glucose levels.

Studies have also shown that individuals who ate a higher-protein diet (25% to 30% of total calories) lost weight more easily, primarily from fat deposits. Since older people tend to eat less, their protein requirements may actually be higher than the currently recommended amounts.

 

What is sarcopenia?

According to PasseportSante.net, sarcopenia is a geriatric syndrome initially characterized by reduced muscle mass. As muscle mass continues to drop, muscle strength and physical performance also decline. Sarcopenia among the elderly is attributable to the aging process but may also be accelerated by pathological and behavioural factors such as poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles.

As we age, our body composition changes. Typically, body fat increases while lean mass decreases, i.e. bones, organs and muscle tissue. Sarcopenia leads to a general deterioration in physical health, including a greater risk of falls, a growing inability to carry out day-to-day activities and reduced autonomy. Sadly, it also leads to increased morbidity and mortality levels. In this regard, sarcopenia is now recognized as a key factor in the physiopathology of “fragility syndrome” among the elderly.

Sarcopenia affects all elderly people, including those in good health and those who continue to engage in sports activities. However, we must distinguish between various types of sports. If we are seeking to boost muscle mass, stimulating the growth hormone is essential. Based on the latest data, the best type of workout is interval training. In other words, even if 65-year-olds are still biking or kayaking, for example, they are not necessarily stimulating the hormone that would help to boost muscle mass. What they are doing is working on what they already have, which is still a very good thing.

 

Characteristics of sarcopenia

Various studies estimate that 25% of individuals over age 70 and 40% of those over age 80 are sarcopenic. Beginning at age 30, muscle degeneration is observed, amounting to 3% to 8% per decade, as muscle is replaced by body fat. The rate of muscle loss accelerates after age 50.

Muscle mass actually declines by around 1% to 2% each year after age 50 while strength declines by an average of 1.5% per year between age 50 and 60 (-15% over 10 years). After age 60, strength declines by 3% per year, or a 30% loss over 10 years.

 

Strategies for dealing with sarcopenia

We should distinguish between two types of physical activity:

  • Endurance exercises, which help to improve balance and appetite while boosting our respiratory capacity and protein synthesis in our muscles. However, endurance exercises have little impact on muscle strength.

 

  • Strength training exercises (e.g. weightlifting), which help to quickly boost muscle strength and tone, and thereby increase muscle mass.

 

As we age, recreational physical activity is not enough to prevent a loss of muscle mass, although it does help to relieve fatigue, improve balance and prevent falls, in addition to helping to improve our quality of life.

 

Dr. François Bouchard, D.C.
Denise Fredette, N.D.

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