Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

What Is Sarcopenia?

Photo by Alexandra Tran

As we age, we lose muscle mass which leads to a decline in muscle strength and function, in medical terms, a condition called sarcopenia. Muscle mass decreases about 5% per decade starting in our 30s. Sarcopenia has been linked to a decreased ability to function in everyday life, to travel, and enjoy activities. It has also been linked to chronic medical illnesses such as hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and stroke. To help counter these changes, it is important to eat protein as well as work on strength/resistance training, the earlier in life, the better.

The importance of strength/resistance training

  • stimulates muscle growth, function, and enhances muscle tissue quality
  • improves connective tissues strength
  • improves bone mineral density
  • resistance training requires our muscles to contract to lift a heavy object against the pull of gravity. Aim to do this 2 to 3 times a week.
    • weight lifting
    • resistance bands
    • body weight-bearing exercises such as pushups, squats, yoga

How much protein should you eat?

  • The recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 to 1 gram/kg of body weight or 0.36 gram/pound of body weight. The protein need depends on activity level, age, muscle mass, and overall health. Those who exercise regularly and the elderly require more protein.
  • Most elderly adults require about 1.0 – 1.2 grams of protein/kg body weight