Haims: Maintaining muscle mass as you age

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, including a natural decline in muscle mass. This decline, known as sarcopenia, is a common consequence of aging and can have significant implications for our overall health and well-being. However, understanding the importance of maintaining muscle mass as we age may be as important as aerobic exercise and diet.

According to the National Institute of Health, after the age of 30, people may lose 3% to 8% of their muscle mass per decade. By the age of 50, many people may have lost as much as 10% of their muscle mass. For people over the age of 65, the loss of muscle mass is a primary reason for falls, which too often leads to other health and physical disabilities.

As we age and muscle mass declines, we become exposed to many health risks that may include weight gain, bone health, and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes increases.

Dwindling muscle mass impacts the way we burn calories and may be a significant factor contributing to weight gain. In fact, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning it burns more calories at rest. Therefore, having a higher proportion of muscle mass can actually contribute to a higher basal metabolic rate and potentially help with weight management.

Unfortunately, as people age and experience the loss of muscle mass, their basal metabolic rate decreases. Unless changes are taken to reduce the consumption of excess calories while simultaneously building muscle mass, too often unwanted weight gain occurs.

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Muscle mass and bone health are closely connected. Strong muscles exert mechanical stress on bones, which stimulates bone growth and helps prevent the onset of osteoporosis and fractures. Adults with higher muscle mass generally have better bone density, which reduces the risk of debilitating fractures and maintaining skeletal health.

Skeletal muscle is a metabolically active tissue that contributes to the regulation of blood sugar levels and metabolic rate. As we age and muscle mass declines, the risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes increases. By maintaining or increasing muscle mass, older individuals can enhance their metabolic health, improve insulin sensitivity, and potentially reduce the risk of metabolic diseases.

Preserving muscle mass is essential for maintaining functional independence in everyday activities. Strong muscles support better balance, stability, improve mobility, and can aid in reducing the risk of falls and injuries. By maintaining muscle strength, adults can maintain their ability to lead active and independent lives.

While muscle mass naturally declines with age, there are strategies that can help slow down this process and maintain optimal muscle health:

Regular resistance training

Weightlifting and/or bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, planks, squats and lunges play a crucial role for building and preserving muscle mass. Aim for two to three sessions per week, focusing on all major muscle groups. Consult a fitness professional to design a safe and effective program tailored to your needs and abilities.

Balanced nutrition

Ensure your diet includes an adequate amount of protein, which provides the building blocks for muscle repair and growth. Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean meats, fish, dairy products, legumes, and vegetables, to meet your nutritional needs.

Stay active

Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga. Even activities like gardening or household chores can contribute to muscle maintenance.

Maintaining muscle mass as we age is of paramount importance for overall health, functional independence, and high quality of life.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is and 970-328-5526. 

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