Reducing loss of muscle mass in the elderly

Reducing loss of muscle mass in the elderly
Exercising and good nutrition have a positive effect on muscle mass. Conversely, a sedentary and inactive lifestyle can accelerate sarcopenia. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK
The right dose of exercise and nutrition can prevent some characteristics of ageing
Published: 4:03 AM, June 25, 2014
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SINGAPORE — A slow and unsteady gait, weakening muscle strength, poor coordination and frail demeanour. Most people accept these traits as an inevitable part of growing old.

Now, studies have found that it is possible to avoid these characteristics of ageing, which result from a condition called sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia refers to the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength or daily function that occurs with ageing, explained Dr Tan Thai Lian, head of department and senior consultant at the Centre for Geriatric Medicine at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

However, exercise and good nutrition can help improve muscle mass. Dr Jean-Pierre Michel from the Geneva Medical School, Geneva University in Switzerland, who analysed 52 studies on physical interventions and 14 on nutrition interventions for sarcopenia, found that the pairing of resistance exercise and protein-based supplements has a positive effect on muscle mass, strength and performance in adults versus supplements alone. Resistance exercises include weight lifting and the use of exercise bands.

He said supplementing with vitamin D, which about 50 to 70 per cent of Asians are deficient in, can also help.

There is no local data on how common sarcopenia is in Singapore. However, it is estimated to affect up to a third of the elderly population above the age of 60, said Dr Michel.

With a rapidly ageing population in Singapore, its incidence is expected to increase, said Dr Tan.


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