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Preventing Muscle loss: The 'new key' to healthy ageing



Sarcopenia is a degenerative condition recognised as a central factor in age-related diseases and overall declining health promoting frailty, disability and death. It is best characterised as loss of:

  • Strength

  • Muscle mass (size)

  • Muscle performance

Sarcopenia has also been called "muscle wasting", "frailty syndrome" and "muscle atrophy", but all of these terms do not convey the far-reaching effects of sarcopenia's true impact. Up until now, Sarcopenia has been largely dismissed by the medical establishment as a natural occurrence of the ageing process that eventually leads to frailty, disability and long-term needs. This is partially true as sarcopenia actually begins earlier, around 30 years of age and gathers speed and consequences with time.


What causes Sarcopenia?

  • Low muscular activity

  • Poor nutrition

  • Cellular ageing

  • Illness

  • Hormonal disturbances

Myokines:

Research has recently discovered that active working muscles release 'chemical signals' during muscular contractions called 'Myokines'. Myokines are special-ised signals that travel from muscles to other organs and tissues, sending vital instructions and information to the organ systems, supporting their roles and function. To date, over 200 myokines have been discovered and their particular functions are being studied. Science has uncov-ered myokines that are crucial for strong bones and prevention of osteoporosis. Sarcopenia precedes osteoporosis. Indeed, studies reveal that preserving muscle size and strength promotes bone density and prevents early onset osteoporosis.


Measuring Sarcopenia:

Handgrip Strength (HGS) determines overall muscle strength using a special tool called a dynamometer. The recorded number is then compared to standardised tables for age, gender and nationality, and provides a risk profile for sarcopenia and its associated morbidi-ties.


Another technique is measuring the walking speed using treadmill by measuring the distance walked within six minutes. Other tests include the DEXA scan which provides information about muscle mass


Degenerative condition:

Active muscles impact other organ sys-tems through myokine signals. Reduced muscle activity often precedes and may contribute to other health problems such as osteoporosis, health disease and dementia. It is imperative that we initiate a strategy to prevent muscle loss and to boost myokine signalling. Indeed, we are learning that myokines are crucial for good health.


How to combat sarcopenia:

  • Endurance type exercises (requiring moderate effort for an extended time) stimulate significant myokine production. Exercises such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming and jogging stimulate significant myokine production.

  • Resistance exercises or weights, also generate significant myokines and growth factors and are important for those of us over 50 years of age.

Nutrition:

Balanced nutrition with adequate protein is essential for muscle maintenance. 1 gram of protein per kg of lean body weight each day is recommended, and this may need to increase as we age. Leucine-rich branched chain amino acids are essential building blocks for muscles, and can be obtained from lean protein such as meat and fish or from whey protein and pea protein shakes.


Targeted Antioxidants:

Research has show that antioxidants play a crucial role in muscle health and ageing. Astaxanthin is a powerful anti-oxidant that has been shown to protect muscles from oxidative stress. Research points to astaxanthin's ability to suppress sarcopenia even during times of disuse (no exercise). However its greatest effects were realised when astaxanthin was taken in combination with an exercise pro-gram. Clinical studies have shown that astaxanthin improves muscle strength, size and performance (increased walking times & distances) .


Bottom line:

The signs and symptoms of Sarcopenia are insidious and may initially present as: fatigue, loss of muscle tone & strength, even weight gain. Sarcopenia is often overlooked due to other overlapping conditions. Indeed, sarcopenia precedes other medical conditions such as: Osteoporosis, Dementia and Cardiovascular diseases.


New Knowledge about muscle-myok-ines, sarcopenia and the aging process has helped researchers and clinicians to find solutions. The combination of selective exercises, a balanced protein diet together with a targeted antioxidant, Astaxanthin, has been shown to suppress sarcopenia and promote healthy ageing.

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