Put some muscle into it

SARCOPENIA might sound like a nasty rash and if you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. However it's something all of us will experience - men and women of all ages. And in case you were wondering, the term comes from the Greek words "sarc" (meaning flesh) and "penia" (meaning not enough of).

This mysteriously named condition is, in fact, muscle loss. We may not give it a second thought in our 30s, 40s and 50s but as we reach retirement age, it puts us at risk of falling and of losing independence.

After the age of 30, the body starts getting rid of its muscle. A little bit here and there - and so slowly that we don't notice. Once we hit 50, we can be losing as much as one per cent of our muscle mass every year. It happens whether we're active or inactive (although it affects us more if we have a sedentary lifestyle).

It's not clear why muscle loss happens. It is thought to be due to changing hormone levels, the fact that our protein requirements (needed to make and maintain muscle) increase as we age and to the slowing down of nerve pathways that activate muscles.

Many people tend to move less as they get older, so the muscles are underused. And unfortunately, if we don't use them, we lose them.

Why does it mattter?

If this is a natural part of ageing, you might think: "Should I be bothered about withering muscles?" But we aren't just talking about losing the bulk and strength of toned biceps.

It also affects the muscles that help keep us stable on our pins and when moving around. Think about your core leg muscles around the hips, thighs and ankles. If these weaken, the risk of falling increases.

In January this year, the World Health Organization revealed that falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide and people over 65 suffer the largest number of fatal falls.

Simple things such as remaining steady on our feet and being able to rise from our chair and move around our own homes safely help us keep our independence in our later years.

There are other concerns too. When we use our muscles they release myokines which have an anti-inflammatory action in the body and help to reduce our risk of many chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

  • Eating a lot of protein including eggs can help increase muscle;
  • Cheese is another good source that can increase muscle;
  • Fish and seafood are good sources to help build muscle including salmon.

With a falling muscle mass and more time spent sitting, we're inadvertently increasing our disease risk.

Another thing our muscles do is burn energy. As muscle mass reduces, our basal metabolic rate (BMR) falls. This is the amount of energy that our body requires to keep it ticking over every day.

With a lower BMR, we don't need to consume as many calories. Women, in particular, notice they often gain weight around and beyond the menopause.

This is partly due to the fact that we continue eating the same amount but, with reducing muscle mass, our energy requirements are lower. We're just not burning it off as fast.

Muscle is lost and fat stores are increased, often without us realising.

What can we do about it?

Although the process is natural, with a little bit of knowledge and a few simple lifestyle changes, we can take better care of our muscles and help keep them stronger for longer.

Here are some simple things you can do:

Build and use your muscles.
This is the number one priority.

You may know that the current guidelines for physical activity from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) include a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week but you may not be aware that they also recommend reducing our sedentary time and doing muscle-strengthening activities two days or more a week.

For those over 65, the CMO guidelines also recommend balance and co-ordination activities at least two days a week to help strengthen important muscles and also to make sure the nerve pathways that trigger muscle activation continue to fire.

Structured weight-lifting is a great way to improve muscle mass.
But it isn't the only way, so you don't have to join a gym.

What is important is to mix things up, add in some muscle strengthening and don't just rely on cardiovascular exercises to keep you healthy.

Lift heavy shopping bags, dig the garden or do activities that involve jumping and running - so grab those dancing shoes or take the stairs.

Nourish your muscles by eating well.

Muscles need protein and, although there are no clear guidelines yet about upping our intake as we age, it seems our requirements increase a little.

The current Reference Nutrition Intake (RNI) in the UK is 0.75g protein for each kg we weigh, per day. For men, this gives a daily intake of about 56g per day and for women it's about 45g. There's no need to take supplements - just make sure your diet includes plenty of protein-rich foods.

Meats such as lean beef, chicken and turkey breast contain large amounts of protein (for example, a roasted chicken breast without skin provides 31g).

Fish and seafood are good sources too - a salmon steak will provide 22g. Good protein-rich meat-free food options include mixed nuts, mixed seeds, eggs, chickpeas, milk or cheese.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1006206/muscle-loss-build-strength-protein-foods