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How Can Sarcopenia Be Prevented in Older Adults?

As each of us gets older, it can often seem as though the health issues begin to pile up, one on top of another. Whether because of a chronic illness, a fall, or simply the natural effects of aging, everyone will have to contend with the fact that we all lose a step once we reach a more advanced age. Part of what contributes to the loss of mobility and independence faced by so many older adults is a condition called sarcopenia – a term which refers to the gradual loss of muscle tissue as we age. Because the effects of this condition can become significant in later life, more than a few people want to know: How can sarcopenia be prevented in older adults? To find out, keep reading as the team at ENU, makers of protein shakes for older adults, tackles this topic head-on.

Do All Older Adults Get Sarcopenia?

Before asking about the treatments used to prevent sarcopenia, most people want to know if they’ll have to worry about it at all. Unfortunately, pretty much every older adult who achieves the status of “senior citizen” will have to face some degree of muscle loss, which often begins as early as age 30 and picks up the pace significantly once you pass age 60 or 70.

That said, not all seniors will experience the same rate of muscle loss as they get older, since a number of different factors can slow – sometimes substantially – the march of sarcopenia. In the next section, we’ll look at some of the treatments that are considered most effective at preventing or mitigating sarcopenia in older adults, starting with exercise.

Using Exercise to Prevent Sarcopenia in Older Adults

Because it’s a natural result of the aging process, sarcopenia often can’t be entirely prevented in older adults, but that doesn’t mean that effective treatment options aren’t available. The method considered most promising for slowing or reversing the effects of sarcopenia is progressive resistance training (PRT), which involves slowly building up your strength by gradually adding resistance and repetitions to your workout over the course of months and years.

This method of exercise has the added benefit of allowing older adults to start working out at their comfort level. Since many seniors engage in physical activity less frequently and – as a result of sarcopenia – with less intensity, this ability to personalize each exercise is an important part of creating a routine that people will stick to, both because it’s safer and because it makes older adults feel more capable (and, therefore, more motivated).

Nutrition to Help Older Adults Prevent Sarcopenia

While exercise is no doubt crucial to preventing the effects of sarcopenia, nutrition is just as important, since one without the other will have very limited results. Whereas exercise encourages the body to start creating new muscle tissue, observing proper nutrition – and especially adequate protein intake – is what will provide your body with the resources it needs to actually create those muscles. As a rule of thumb, experts recommend that older adults get at least one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight each day; to find the number that’s right for you, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 – the result is how many grams of protein you should be eating on a daily basis.

This may sound like a simple solution, but many older adults struggle to eat large meals, so increasing their protein intake may require thinking outside the box. A number of commonly available foods provide protein without adding much volume to your diet, such as milk (which has about 8 grams of protein per cup) and yogurt (which can offer as much as 20 grams).

Along with protein, a key nutrient in those with sarcopenia is vitamin D. Many older adults fail to get enough vitamin D in their diets, and a lack of this essential compound has been associated with low muscle strength; in those with a deficit, supplementing with vitamin D may help to reduce the symptoms of sarcopenia. This is part of what makes meal replacement shakes an attractive option for those with sarcopenia, since they are designed to provide balanced nutrition; an ENU shake, for instance, has 20 grams of protein, plus heart-healthy fats, complex carbs, and more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including 30% of your daily value of vitamin D.

Medical Treatments for Sarcopenia Prevention in Older Adults

In addition to a loss of muscle fibers, many older adults must contend with a reduction in the levels of hormones in their bodies. One of these hormones in particular, testosterone, plays a critical role in the production of new muscle, so as it becomes less available in the body, preventing sarcopenia can become more difficult.

It’s for this reason that hormone supplements are sometimes considered as a means to build muscle mass, but it should be noted that these products often carry significant and unpredictable side effects, and the FDA has not approved their use in treating sarcopenia. Similarly, growth hormone has been considered for use in those with muscle loss, but it, too, comes with some dangers that should not be ignored.

ENU Offers Balanced Nutritional Support to Help Older Adults Prevent Sarcopenia

By providing many of the nutrients needed to build muscle mass and strength, ENU meal replacement shakes can help older adults ward off sarcopenia. If incorporating these drinks into your diet sounds like a bit too much for your stomach to handle, know that our Pro3+ nutritional powder can add calories and protein to a variety of foods and drinks without increasing their volume or greatly altering their taste or texture. Learn more about all the products available at ENU by visiting us online today or calling (855) 266-6733.

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