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Sarcopenia: Don't Let It Get You Down

Sarcopenia is a scary sounding word, but it’s a condition all adults should become familiar with.

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle tissue, and one of the main causes of frailty in older adults. We begin to lose muscle mass as early as our mid-30s. By our late 50s and early 60s the muscle loss accelerates significantly, reducing quality of life and increasing the risk of falls, says Dr. Tom Bilella, ANJC’s Nutrition Education Council chairman.

Muscle mass typically begins to decline in middle age at the rate of 1-2 percent per year after age 50.  Moreover, muscle strength declines at a rate of 1.5 percent per year between the ages of 50 and 60 and 3 percent every year afterwards. Those with diabetes and/or obesity see an even more significant decline.

But there are some simple ways you can help prevent sarcopenia. A nutritious diet and exercise can help maintain muscular function and health with increasing age.

Arguably the most important vitamin in the fight against sarcopenia, Bilella says, is vitamin D. The primary source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, where it is then produced in the skin. You can also get vitamin D by eating foods such as oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods.

Protein intake is another key factor in preventing sarcopenia. Generally, older adults should consume 25-30g of protein with every meal, three times a day. Good sources of high quality protein include lean meat, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs, and whey. 

The combination of resistance training, increased protein intake and key supplementation may help slow the trajectory of muscle loss with aging. 

Additionally, creatine, omega-3 PUFA and CoQ10 supplementation as well as other vitamins and minerals also are essential in preventing the condition, he says.

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