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What are the Costs of Aging Muscles?

Sarcopenia is the exponential loss of skeletal muscle mass with aging and typically onsets after the third decade of life. The loss of strength and force steadiness are some of the main behavioral complications of the aging neuromuscular system. There is a significant correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and the progression of muscle loss. The main effects of sarcopenia are:

1. Decreased muscle strength
2. Limited functional mobility
3. Loss of functional independence
4. Frailty and general weakness
5. Falls and fractures
6. Osteoperosis
7. Weight Gain
8. Diabetes

The over 65 population will approximately double from 36 million in year 2008 to approximately 72 million by year 2030! The risk of disability is 2-5 times greater in older persons with sarcopenia than an older person with normal muscle function. Sarcopenia exponentially increases the risks of major falls and fractures among the elderly and a significant proportion of the elderly who fall are unable to function independently in the community.

What are the healthcare costs associated with sarcopenia? In USA, the costs of direct health care visits as a result of sarcopenia amounted to $18.5 billion in the year 2000. Additional costs for those who were no longer able to live independently in the community amounted to $26.5 billion. There is typically a strong association of sarcopenia with diabetes and costs associated with diabetes was approximately $156 billion in year 2010!

So what can be done to decelerate the loss of skeletal muscle and onset of sarcopenia? Exercise interventions and strength training among the elderly can decelerate the loss of muscle strength and improve force steadiness. Walking frequently whenever possible or light weight-lifting or moderate strength training can help to keep the muscles engaged and slow down the progressive loss of muscle mass.