Sarcopenia, also known as sarcopenia with aging, is the gradual loss of muscle mass and function and begins approximately from the age of 30. Sarcopenia typically happens faster around age 75. But it may also speed up as early as 65 or as late as 80. It’s a factor in frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures in aging adults.
Symptoms can include weakness and loss of stamina, which can interfere with physical activity. Reduced activity further shrinks muscle mass.
Although sarcopenia is seen mostly in people who are inactive, the fact that it also occurs in people who stay physically active suggests there are other factors in its development. Researchers believe these include:
- Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movement
- Lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor
- A decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy
- Not getting enough calories or protein each day to sustain muscle mass
- Urocortin II. This has been shown to stimulate the release of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from your pituitary gland. Given through an IV, this can prevent muscle atrophy that can happen when you’re in a cast or taking certain medicines. Its use for building muscle mass in humans has not been studied and isn’t recommended.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). When a woman’s production of hormones goes down at menopause, HRT can increase lean body mass, reduce abdominal fat in the short-term, and prevent bone loss. However, there has been controversy around the use of HRT due to increased risk of certain cancers and other serious health problems.
Other treatments under investigation for sarcopenia include:
- Testosterone supplements
- Growth hormone supplements
- Medication for treatment of metabolic syndrome (including, insulin-resistance, obesity, and hypertension).
If these prove useful, you’ll use them with resistance exercise, not instead of it.