Haims: maintaining muscle mass as you age

Haims: maintaining muscle mass as you age

Judson Haims
Courtesy photo

As we age, our body undergoes various changes, including a natural decline in muscle mass. This decline, known as sarcopenia, is a common consequence of aging and can have significant implications for our overall health and well-being. However, understanding the importance of maintaining muscle mass as you age can be as important as aerobic exercise and diet.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), after age 30, people can lose 3%-8% of their muscle mass per decade. By the age of 50, many people may have lost up to 10% of their muscle mass. For people over the age of 65, loss of muscle mass is a major reason for falls, which all too often leads to other physical and physical disabilities.

As we age and muscle mass decreases, we become exposed to many health risks which can include weight gain, bone health and metabolic disorders such as increasing type 2 diabetes.

Decreased muscle mass affects how we burn calories and can be a significant contributing factor to weight gain. In fact, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, which means it burns more calories at rest. Therefore, having a higher percentage of muscle mass can actually contribute to a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR) and potentially help with weight management.

Unfortunately, as people age and experience loss of muscle mass, their BMR decreases. Unless changes are made to reduce excess calorie consumption while simultaneously gaining muscle mass, unwanted weight gain all too often occurs.

Muscle mass and bone health are closely linked. Strong muscles exert mechanical stress on bones, which stimulates bone growth and helps prevent the onset of osteoporosis and fractures. Adults with higher muscle mass generally have better bone density, which reduces the risk of debilitating fractures and the maintenance of skeletal health.

Skeletal muscle is a metabolically active tissue that contributes to the regulation of blood sugar levels and metabolic rate. As we age and muscle mass decreases, the risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes increases. By maintaining or increasing muscle mass, older individuals can improve their metabolic health, improve sensitivity to insulin and potentially reduce the risk of metabolic disease.

Preserving muscle mass is essential for maintaining functional independence in daily activities. Strong muscles support better balance, stability, improve mobility and can help reduce the risk of falls and injury. By maintaining muscle strength, adults can maintain their ability to lead active, independent lives.

While muscle mass naturally declines with age, there are strategies that can help slow this process and maintain optimal muscle health:

Regular resistance training: Weight lifting and/or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, planks, squats and lunges play a crucial role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Aim for two to three sessions a week, targeting all major muscle groups. Consult a fitness professional to design a safe and effective program tailored to your needs and abilities.

Balanced nutrition: Make sure your diet includes an adequate amount of protein, which provides the building blocks for muscle growth and repair. Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean meats, fish, dairy products, legumes, and vegetables, to meet your nutritional needs.

Stay active: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming or yoga. Activities such as gardening or household chores can also contribute to muscle maintenance.

Maintaining muscle mass as we age is of paramount importance for overall health, functional independence and a high quality of life.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elders and willing to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

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