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What is the Treatment for Sarcopenia?

Discover how sarcopenia, muscle loss with age, impacts health and independence. Explore treatments like diet, exercise, and potential medical interventions.

  • 06 Feb 2024
  • 3 min read

Muscles play a pivotal role in our bodies by maintaining body posture and strong joints. But we all gradually lose muscle mass and strength as soon as we turn 30. Some of us lose it more quickly due to a condition called sarcopenia that affects 10 to 20% of adults. It can lead to disability, loss of independence, need for palliative care and even death. Many older adults don't realise that their difficulty climbing the stairs or getting out of their chairs may be due to sarcopenia. Therefore, it is pertinent to seek sarcopenia treatment as soon as we realise its symptoms.

Treatment of Sarcopenia

Age-related changes in our body lead to decreased levels of growth hormones, a reduced ability to turn protein into muscle, increased inflammation and interference with the signals between the brain and the muscles. Sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise, prolonged bed rest, loss of mobility, poor nutrition and obesity exacerbate the conditions that lead to sarcopenia. To deal with this disorder, the following sarcopenia treatment options are available.

  • A healthy diet and nutritional supplements with major nutrients for muscle health impede sarcopenia and improve physical performance. We should increase the intake of protein, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and creatine in our diet. A study indicates that 20 g of whey protein and 800 IU of vitamin D twice in a day can help improve lower limb strength.
  • Resistance-based strength training can reverse the process of muscle weakening. Rubber resistance bands that we are supposed to stretch serve as an alternative to bulky gym equipment. It also stimulates the activity of growth hormones and satellite cells, responsible for regenerating muscles.
  • Aerobic exercises and endurance building can also combat sarcopenia. A study has found that those who walk fast have fewer chances of developing sarcopenia.
  • Combination therapy that involves both nutritional interventions and exercise improves gait speed and the strength of the quadriceps.
  • Potential interventions in the form of drugs for improving muscle strength include anabolic steroids, selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) and myostatin inhibitors. However, the efficacy of these interventions and associated health concerns are still a subject of research.
  • A decline in testosterone levels is associated with a loss of muscle strength. Research indicates that it reduces by 1% yearly once we turn 30. Doses of testosterone increase protein synthesis, thereby leading to increased muscle mass. It also enhances the functioning of satellite cells. However, potential side effects include increased chances of cardiovascular ailments and prostate cancer.
  • A combination of growth hormone and testosterone tends to increase muscle mass. However, its role in enhancing muscle strength is debatable in the medical community. Possible side effects while injecting growth hormones include muscle pain, oedema and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sarcopenia treatment involves interference at the cellular level in critical patients. Cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and placental-derived stromal cells delivers potential benefits. MSCs can be obtained from our bone marrow or adipose tissue, whereas placental cells are abundant in the umbilical cord.

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Besides making us weaker, sarcopenia affects our body balance and ability to walk, weakens bones, increases fatigue, worsens existing conditions, causes weight gain and raises the risk of malnutrition. Physiological interventions, regular exercise and a good diet go a long way in building muscle strength. When nothing goes right, health insurance is what you need to rise above the casualties.

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