Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Keep Your Muscles Strong as You Age

Experts Are Looking Into Promising Treatments for Muscle Decline. But There Are Things You Can Do About It Now.

By Laura Landro, WSJ
June 22, 2014 4:54 p.m. ET

Muscle strength is one of the keys to healthy aging, yet after we achieve peak mass in our early 40s, it's pretty much downhill from there. Most people begin to lose modest amounts of muscle at that point and experience progressive deterioration as the years go by, especially if they are sedentary.

Now, with a growing population of aging baby boomers, experts are turning their attention to interventions to help stem the loss of muscle mass, quality and strength, known as sarcopenia. It is caused by a number of complex factors that are not entirely understood, including decreasing amounts of testosterone in men. Muscle decline often goes hand in hand with frailty, a decline of physical function that leads to falls, hospitalization and the need for nursing-home care.

Researchers are looking at promising treatments including inhibiting a naturally occurring protein called myostatin that curbs muscle growth. Pharmaceutical companies already have drugs in the pipeline that act by blocking myostatin or blocking the sites where it is detected in the body, potentially rebuilding muscle.

For now, however, the best medicine available to maintain muscle mass and strength is less complicated and costly—namely, exercise and a healthy diet. Yet about 60% of people over 65 are insufficiently active or overtly inactive, and many have poor nutrition, says Nathan LeBrasseur, a researcher who directs the Muscle Performance and Physical Function Laboratory and the Healthy Aging and Independent Living Initiative at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Dr. LeBrasseur estimates that most people will lose approximately 30% of muscle mass over their lifetime, and as much as 50% by the time they reach their 80s or 90s.

(More here.)

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