As we age, our muscles weaken and deteriorate. The clinical term for this gradual loss is sarcopenia. Its effects also include a loss of stamina and difficulty completing physical activities. A study in 2018 was picked up by newspapers and interpreted as having found evidence for measures against age-related muscle weakening. However, this was not the case. It found that, by the age of 75, people have up to 50% fewer nerves controlling the muscles. With these weakening connections, the muscles begin to shrink. The muscle fibres, in turn, struggle to contract and this causes muscle weakening.
Currently, nothing has been proven to prevent age-related muscle weakening. However, there are things you can do to address the symptoms and slow its progression.
What Causes Age-Related Muscle Weakening?
Physical exercise seems to reduce the loss of muscle mass slightly, but the effect is marginal. Muscle weakening appears to be an unfortunate consequence of ageing. Factors that affect its progression are:
- Lower concentrations of growth hormone and testosterone.
- A decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy
- Not having enough calories or protein each day to sustain existing muscle mass.
Beyond age-related muscle weakening, factors such as inactivity of the muscle, medication side effects and underlying conditions can also play a part.
Most of this is out of our control, but mild to moderate exercise alongside a healthy diet can help to slow the process.
You should bear in mind that sudden muscle weakness could be a sign of a stroke. Often, this appears as weakness occurring in one side of the body. If you believe that you or someone around you may be having a stroke, you need to call 999 straight away. After all, the faster you get help, the better the outcome.
Treatments for Sarcopenia
Overall, the best treatment for age-related muscle weakening is exercise. Resistance and strength training can be particularly useful. Resistance training aids the neuromuscular system and will improve the body’s ability to convert protein into energy. These improvements usually begin as soon as two weeks after starting a regular routine.
Strength training is the best exercise to do as it has the least risk of injury. If your elderly loved one wants to take on a new exercise routine, you should help them speak to their GP or physiotherapist. That way, they can create an exercise plan that suits your loved one’s needs and abilities.
If this fails, there are medications that can help combat sarcopenia. Testosterone supplements and growth hormone supplements may help to slow symptoms and progression. It is important to use these alongside an exercise plan and to consult doctors before beginning any new medication.
Protect Your Elderly Loved Ones
Muscle weakening increases our loved ones’ chances of falls and trips. The damage from a fall has a far greater impact on those who are frail. Recovery can take a very long time and so it is important to take preventative measures.
A Careline alarm enables the user to call for help when they need it most. Our Emergency Call Handlers are able to assess the situation and send help to your loved one quickly. If you have any questions about the alarm service, or to place an order, please call our friendly Customer Service Team on 0800 101 3333.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 20th July 2021 to reflect current information.