A single fall can severely alter – or even end – the life of a senior loved one. The brain injuries and fractures that result from a fall can transform an independent senior who’s aging in place to one who needs care in the home or even have to move into a senior living facility where greater care can be provided.
We have to do something to reduce the risk of falls.
As we age, we often lose muscle mass and thereby strength resulting in difficulty with balance, walking, a stooped posture and overall activities of daily living. Falls are too frequently an outcome of loss of balance, strength and muscle mass. This loss is known as sarcopenia. We think of frail older adults with gait disturbance and difficulty with mobility as a consequence of aging.
For many years, scientists have felt that sarcopenia was inevitable and therefore there was little anyone could do as they age to prevent this muscle loss. However now researchers are studying what preventative steps we can take to slow down the progression of sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia Risk Factors
- A sedentary lifestyle is thought to be a major risk factor. Sarcopenia often afflicts those that are not physically active; however it also does affect active people
- Being over 40 years typically begins muscle loss, which rapidly increases over the age of 75
- Motor neuron death as our body ages, telling the muscles when and how to move
- Malnutrition, which increases muscle wasting as a result of poor food and nutrient intake
- Change in protein intake and requirements as we age, many older adults do not meet the minimum requirements for protein intake
- Decrease in hormone levels
Fighting Sarcopenia’s Effects
- Increase physical activity, get moving every day! Engage in resistance training to build muscle. Exercise helps with protein synthesis, hormone balance and improved neuron function.
- Eat right with emphasis on consuming adequate protein sources and a balance in all foods. Be sure to get enough calories to maintain weight without loss.
- Take actions to avoid falls by creating a safe home environment, wearing properly fitting shoes all day, and finding activities that improve muscle tone!
There is no medication to cure sarcopenia. Interventions such as physical activity and a healthy diet designed to strengthen muscle are the most effective ways to live and deal with sarcopenia.
We talk frequently in our blog posts and on the Senior Care Corner Show about the importance of staying active for our physical and mental health. As scientists continue to learn more and make advancements in our health care outcomes, we all need to do our part to stay healthy. Let’s all get moving!