Sarcopenia Treatment: How to Manage the Symptoms
Sarcopenia can impact the quality of life and your ability to live independently as you age. It is seen as a normal part of the aging process affecting up to 10 percent of adults over the age of 50. If you have been diagnosed with sarcopenia, it’s not too late to take steps toward treating and preventing further complications from sarcopenia.
Use this guide to learn more about the best sarcopenia treatment options for you.
What Is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is a muscular degenerative disorder common in older adults that means “lack of flesh.” In a healthy person, growth hormones signal properly for growth and teardown of cells. An imbalance between this process causes sarcopenia.
Factors such as
- lack of exercise or movement
- diets low in calories and protein
- chronic illness
- severe stress
are all contributors to sarcopenia. Early signs of sarcopenia may not be visually noticeable, but you may feel weaker and have difficulty lifting. As it progresses, walking or using stairs may become harder and take more energy.
Loss of muscle mass and energy can be reversed or prevented if you take the proper steps as soon as possible.
What Can I Do To Manage Sarcopenia?
The best way to prevent further muscle loss due to sarcopenia is to begin an exercise routine. Resistance training is used most commonly to treat muscle loss in older patients in physical therapy programs. This type of exercise involves using dumbbells, exercise tubing or bands, and elliptical machines to build up your muscle strength and improve stamina.
Low-impact exercises like swimming, yoga, cycling, or even ballroom dancing are all good options to be more active without causing severe impact on your joints.
Other types of treatments that may work for sarcopenia include hormone replacement therapy or HRT. HRT has been shown to increase body mass, cut down on abdominal fat, and prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Other forms of treatment that may improve the symptoms of sarcopenia are testosterone supplements, vitamin D, and certain medications used to treat metabolic syndromes.
However, the risks associated with HRT do not make this the best option for treating sarcopenia. In conjunction with exercise, making sure you are getting proper nutrition is important to prevent further muscle desegregation and complications.
Sarcopenia Treatment Supplements
The essential supplement you need for treating sarcopenia is protein. It is essential for gaining and maintaining strength and improving mobility. The Mayo Clinic recommends people with, or at risk for sarcopenia should eat 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight, or about 3.5-4.3 ounces for an adult who weighs 180 pounds.
To figure out how much protein you need, multiply 0.36 by your weight in pounds. Protein should comprise 15 to 25% of the calories you eat in a day. Your meals should contain 20 to 30 grams of protein in order to reach your daily recommended value.
If you need more protein to add to your diet, consider these foods that are great sources of protein:
- Eggs: six grams of protein per serving
- Almonds: six grams of protein per serving
- Chicken breast: 53 grams of protein per serving
- Oats: 11 grams of protein per serving
- Cottage cheese: 28 grams of protein per serving
- Greek yogurt: 17 grams of protein per serving
- Milk: eight grams of protein per serving
- Broccoli: three grams of protein per serving
- Lean beef: 25 grams of protein per serving
- Tuna: 27 grams of protein per serving
You do not have to get protein through food alone. If you have difficultly digesting food like beef or chicken breast, you can add protein to your diet in the form of nutritional supplements such as protein powders or capsules, and nutritional shakes.
Any dietary changes, like increasing your protein intake, should be done under the supervision of your doctor. Increasing your protein intake on your own is not recommended for people with impaired kidney function.
Other nutritional supplements
While protein coupled with an exercise routine is very important for managing the symptoms of sarcopenia, other vitamins and mineral supplements may be helpful or even necessary. You may be lacking the proper nutrition in your diet to maintain bone and tissue health. These vitamins and minerals are essential for patients with sarcopenia:
Calcium not only helps strengthen your bones, but it also plays an important role in muscle function. Calcium regulates contraction and movement of your muscles. This is important for building up muscle strength.
A good source of this mineral is tofu or soybeans, spinach, salmon, and nuts.
Vitamin D, like calcium, is essential for bone and muscle health. Deficiencies in vitamin D a common and lead to poor muscle health in otherwise healthy people. If you have sarcopenia, it is important you are getting enough vitamin D through your diet or supplementation.
Good sources of vitamin D are mushrooms, fatty fish, cheese, and fortified milk.
HMB is short for beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate, an acid that naturally occurs in your body when leucine is broken down. HMB supplementation allows you to take in more protein than you would be able to by eating whole foods. One gram of HMB taken three times a day is equal to about 600 grams of protein.
HMB is not approved or regulated by the FDA and you should not take this before talking with your doctor.
Zinc is an immune-boosting, vital mineral that helps muscles grow when used in conjunction with exercise. It is needed for your body to make and use protein. A deficiency of zinc could lead to impaired immune function, loss of appetite, and poor wound healing.
Rich sources of zinc include red meat, legumes, chia seeds, and whole grains.
Talk To Your Doctor
Before adding any new supplements to your diet, always talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about sarcopenia treatment. These vitamins, minerals, and supplements could help you manage or even prevent the symptoms of sarcopenia. It’s not too late to start an exercise program and take charge of your nutrition.