Are you aware of the impact that sarcopenia can have on your health as you age? As we grow older, it’s common for muscle mass and strength to gradually decline, leading to a condition called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia affects up to 44% of Singaporeans. It was estimated that between 14% to 25% of seemingly healthy older adults are affected by sarcopenia. This World Sarcopenia Day, let’s delve deeper into understanding this condition and how you can take proactive steps to prevent and manage it.
Early detection of sarcopenia
One of the key messages of World Sarcopenia Day is the importance of early detection. By recognising the signs of sarcopenia, such as loss of muscle mass, decreased strength, and difficulty performing everyday tasks, you can seek timely interventions and prevent further muscle deterioration.
Prevention is always better than cure. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can be a game-changer when it comes to maintaining muscle health. Engaging in strength training exercises, such as lifting weights or resistance training, can help build and preserve muscle mass. Additionally, staying active throughout the day by incorporating activities like walking or gardening can also have a positive impact on your muscle health.
Nutrition also plays a crucial role in combating sarcopenia. Ensuring an adequate intake of protein, along with a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, can support muscle growth and repair. Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to create a personalized nutrition plan that suits your specific needs.
How is sarcopenia diagnosed?
A healthcare professional may conduct a physical examination to assess muscle strength, muscle size, and overall physical performance. They may evaluate your ability to perform certain movements or tests that target specific muscle groups.
Muscle Mass Measurement
Muscle mass can be measured using techniques such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These methods help quantify the amount of muscle mass in your body and identify any reductions that may indicate sarcopenia.
Muscle Strength Testing
Muscle strength can be assessed through various tests, such as handgrip strength or leg strength measurements. These tests involve applying force or resistance and measuring your ability to generate muscular strength. Weakness or reduced strength may indicate the presence of sarcopenia.
Functional Performance Tests
Functional performance tests evaluate your physical abilities and functional limitations. These tests may involve tasks such as walking speed, balance assessments, or the ability to rise from a chair. Impairments in these functional tasks may suggest muscle weakness and the presence of sarcopenia.
Although there is no specific blood test to diagnose sarcopenia, certain biomarkers related to muscle health and inflammation, such as creatine kinase (CK) and C-reactive protein (CRP), may be measured. These tests can provide additional information about muscle function and overall health status.
It’s important to note that sarcopenia is a complex condition, and a comprehensive assessment by a healthcare professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis. They will consider various factors, including your medical history, physical examination findings, and diagnostic tests, to determine if sarcopenia is present and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Working with a healthcare profession to prevent or treat sarcopenia
World Sarcopenia Day also highlights the importance of seeking professional guidance. Consider consulting with a healthcare provider or an exercise professional, such as a personal trainer or chiropractor, who specialises in sarcopenia management. They can design a tailored exercise program, provide guidance on proper form and technique, and offer support throughout your muscle health journey.
Exercises such as resistance training can help you build muscles. This involves using weights, resistance bands, or machines to perform exercises that target major muscle groups. Examples of such exercises include squats, lunges, chest presses, bicep curls, and shoulder presses.
If you’ve been sedentary for a while, the idea of lifting weights may seem intimidating or scary at first. That’s completely normal. This is where having a personal trainer or chiropractor can be extremely beneficial. They can guide you through the process, provide proper instruction on lifting techniques, and help you start at an appropriate level based on your current fitness level and abilities. Working with a chiropractor who can provide personal training will ensure that the exercises are safe, effective, and suitable for your specific needs.
Exercise for physical and mental health
Exercise is not just about achieving a certain appearance or vanity. It plays a vital role in promoting both physical and mental health. Regular physical activity has numerous benefits that extend far beyond the way we look.
Physically, exercise helps to strengthen our muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system. It improves our overall fitness, flexibility, and endurance, allowing us to perform daily activities more efficiently and with less effort. Engaging in regular exercise can also help manage weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and enhance our immune system.
Mentally, exercise has a powerful impact on our well-being. It stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters and help reduce stress and anxiety. Regular exercise can improve sleep quality, enhance cognitive function, and boost self-esteem and self-confidence. It can also provide an outlet for emotional release and serve as a positive coping mechanism for dealing with life’s challenges.
It’s important to understand that sarcopenia is not just about how you look. It’s a medical condition that can have serious implications for your overall health. When you experience muscle loss, it can impact your mobility, increase your risk of falls and fractures, slow down your metabolism, and affect your overall function. Sarcopenia can even contribute to the development of other age-related conditions, such as osteoporosis and frailty.
Ensure adequate protein intake
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for preventing sarcopenia. Firstly, focus on consuming sufficient protein. Adequate protein intake is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. Include good sources of protein in your diet such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh.
The recommended protein intake for healthy Singaporeans is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 50kg, then you will be aiming to consume 40 grams of protein. If you are above 50 years old, you should aim to assume 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
When calculating your protein intake, it’s important to understand that the weight of a protein food source, such as 40 grams of chicken, does not equate to 40 grams of protein. The actual protein content in a specific food may vary. For example, 40 grams of cooked chicken breast typically provides around 12 grams of protein. This means that if you’re aiming to consume, let’s say, 40 grams of protein per meal, you would need to consume approximately 130 grams of cooked chicken breast.
If you are active strength training and looking to increase muscle mass, aim for about 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. To optimise muscle protein synthesis, distribute your protein intake evenly across meals and snacks throughout the day.
Maintain a healthy diet of essential nutrients
In addition to protein, make sure you’re getting essential nutrients for muscle health. Include foods rich in vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, fortified dairy products, citrus fruits, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are excellent choices. These nutrients play a role in muscle function, repair, and overall health.
Staying hydrated is also important for muscle health. Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day to support overall health and muscle function. Proper hydration helps maintain optimal muscle performance and prevents dehydration-related muscle fatigue.
Lastly, be mindful of your caloric intake. Maintain a balanced caloric intake to prevent excess weight gain or loss, as both can negatively impact muscle health. Aim for a diet that provides an appropriate amount of energy for your age, gender, activity level, and overall health goals. Additionally, limit your alcohol consumption as excessive alcohol intake can impair muscle protein synthesis and contribute to muscle loss.
Remember that a balanced and nutritious diet is just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to preventing sarcopenia. Regular physical activity, including strength training exercises, and a healthy lifestyle overall are equally important in maintaining muscle health and preventing muscle loss. Consider seeking professional guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can provide personalised advice based on your individual needs and goals.
Preventing sarcopenia starts today
Remember, prevention starts today. By embracing a proactive approach to muscle health and incorporating exercise and nutrition strategies into your lifestyle, you can take control of your well-being and reduce the risk of developing sarcopenia.
On this World Sarcopenia Day, join the global movement in raising awareness about this condition. Share the knowledge with your friends, family, and community, and empower others to prioritise their muscle health as well.
Together, let’s make a difference in combating sarcopenia and ensuring a healthier and stronger future for all.
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