7 Symptoms of Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is an age-related disease that leads to the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. Although a gradual decrease in muscle is normal for adults starting in their fourth decade of life, weakness and functional decline can greatly hinder mobility and quality of life at very old ages. It is not entirely clear what triggers sarcopenia, but several factors are thought to contribute to the muscular degeneration process.

Reduced overall caloric intake, specifically decreased protein consumption, or poor nutrition in general can lead to less muscle mass retention and production. Lack of exercise and an overall increase in the prevalence of sedentary lifestyles also lead to higher levels of sarcopenia in the elderly population.

Natural metabolic and hormonal changes associated with the aging process also play their role. Sarcopenia is correlated with the failed activation of satellite cells, which normally fuse into muscle fibers after exercise or injury to restore function. Declining levels of hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 along with elevated inflammatory activity result in a formidable combination of decreased muscle production and accelerated muscular degradation.

The seven symptoms listed below are most commonly seen in people with sarcopenia. Although it is so intrinsically tied to the natural process of aging, sarcopenia is hardly untreatable or an inevitable sentence to a debilitated life at an older age. The key to counteracting the most severe effects involves relatively simple measures like maintaining an active lifestyle with plenty of strength and resistance exercise bolstered by good nutritional habits.

1. Decrease In Muscle Size

Diagnosis with sarcopenia is mostly determined by a decrease in muscle size over time. The actual amount of muscle loss will vary from person to person, but it is the rate at which the muscle atrophies that is important in formally attributing muscle loss to something other than just general aging. Notably, this reduction of muscle is characterized by a decrease in both the number of muscle fibers and the individual size of each fiber determined by its cross-sectional area. Sarcopenia is associated with a specific decrease in size and number of type II muscle fibers while changes in the slow-twitch type I fibers remain within the normal range seen with natural aging. Type II is the fast-twitch muscle fiber that generally fatigues faster but is vital for actions requiring more powerful bursts of energy like sudden movements or large shifts in weight.

Muscle atrophy is also caused by fat cells infiltrating and replacing muscle fibers, excess fibrous tissue generation during muscle repair, oxidative stress, metabolic changes, and degeneration of junctions between motor neurons and muscle fibers that usually enable contractions and general muscle function. All of this muscular atrophy contributes significantly to many of the other symptoms seen among those with sarcopenia.