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SARCOPENIA: WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ...

Updated: Mar 23, 2022


I know I know: this is a "technical" topic but we can't help but start our journey together talking about it, because it is one of the huge key points to consider when it comes to "over 40" women.

Do not skip it and indeed, read carefully!


We all know that life expectancy has greatly increased. Living longer may seem like a good thing, but it really is when our health and the body allow us to do it WELL.


We are quite aware of the fact that adequate nutrition and physical activity contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but we neglect the advantages of nutrition and exercise over body composition, especially its long-term impact on health.

Over the years, body composition changes. How come this happens?


Let's start with a cultural aspect that is still too present: physical activity tends to decrease over the years.


How many people still think that the more the age increases, the less in terms of quantity and intensity they have to do physical activity? Too many, too many alas.

Especially because it is exactly the opposite!


If you add to this a change in diet (or in your nutritional status due to health problems), muscle mass begins to decline and you are more prone to accidental injuries, chronic joint pain and less tolerance to surgery.


Why is this data important? The loss of muscle mass causes a decrease in functional capacity in adults and is linked to major health risks.


In practice, when muscle mass begins to decrease, daily activities are increasingly tiring, and for this reason the quality of life decreases.


And we also have the aesthetic aspect to consider ( talking about it has become almost out of fashion now a days but I don't really care): having a body that we like, that makes us feel good, increases our self-esteem and confidence. Feeling good in our body is important.

So let's talk about this process for a moment:


Sarcopenia refers to clinically significant loss of muscle mass and strength due to "normal aging".

In the past it was believed that this loss of muscle and its consequences (balance problems, changes in walking ability, decreased ability to perform daily activities) were inevitable, but studies from the last decade agree that by maintaining a good amount and quality of physical activity and nutrition you can maintain a good body composition and fight this slow loss of muscle and strength.

When we begin to lose muscle mass (after the age of 30 the process begins very gradually and for women it has a large increase from entering menopause) as a consequence the percentage of fat mass increases, largely in the form of intra visceral fat, the one we accumulate on the stomach and waist to understand, which is the most harmful to health.


Studies have found that sedentary people between the ages of 55 and 65 have between 4 and 5 kg of lean mass less than men and women between the ages of 20 and 29, despite weighing between 3 and 5 kg more!


The causes of sarcopenia are many, and in addition to the aforementioned, we are now going to see the most influential ones for the female body:

Hormones (there they are!) Play a vital role by being involved in the development of muscle mass and strength.


The sexual hormones, estrogen and testosterone, play a central role.

When they begin to decrease and this process reaches its peak with the entry into menopause, there is a decrease in the synthesis of muscle proteins and also a lower production of cells essential for muscle repair.


As mentioned before, the decrease in physical activity. Regular resistance exercises are essential to maintain mass and also to increase muscle strength.


Over the age of 40, training becomes even more fundamental than at 20, and being aware of it is a great step.

Over 50 it becomes essential.


Increase in pro-inflammatory chitokines

An unbalanced diet and little exercise contribute to increasing visceral fat. This type of tissue produces pro-inflammatory cytokines which can accelerate the destruction of muscles and therefore lead to greater risks. Obesity and muscle weakness are both associated with high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.



SARCOPENIC OBESITY

This is an interesting topic that I too had heard little about.


Have you ever heard the expression "skinny fat"?


A "skinny fat" person may have a normal weight but a metabolic composition similar to someone who is overweight or obese.


A "skinny fat" person has lost muscle mass and gained or maintained fat mass. This can be caused by an unhealthy diet and little physical activity.


Since sarcopenia is caused, in most cases, by an improper diet and little physical activity, at any age one can become obese sarcopenic. For this reason it is much more important to focus on body composition rather than just weight.


Now it is important to take action: what can be done to limit the sarcopenia process? I remind you that the process is absolutely natural, but its effects can be limited.


When we talk about physical activity, strength training becomes the focus at any age, even in the elderly population.


Training "with load", using your own body weight and tools, causes changes in neuromuscular functions. This leads to improving the ability to carry out everyday activities and to maintaining high levels of strength and energy over time.


Starting strength training from a young age further decreases the likelihood of muscle mass decreasing prematurely and really makes a difference.


Increase the intake of proteins and amino acids: the requirement increases over the years because to obtain the same anabolic effect, a greater amount of these nutrients must be taken. Proteins and amino acids are the basis for building muscle mass.


Vitamin D deficiency is also related to the loss of muscle mass in women, regardless of body composition, diet and hormonal status. Research suggests that getting adequate vitamin D is not only important for bone health, but also for preventing muscle loss.


In conclusion…

the changes that occur in the body are natural, they must be lived with serenity and above all accepted.


This does not mean, however, that one must passively suffer this process without doing what’s possible to limit the negative effects.


The importance of a balanced diet and physical activity cannot be emphasized enough; the better your body is treated, the easier it is to prevent the degradation of muscle mass and the accumulation of fat that is harmful and risky for our health and quality of life.


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