This is my upcoming contribution to the NWTC newsletter for October:
Don’t you just hate it when someone tells you “I told you so,” knowing full well that you know that they know that they were right. Well, when I wrote The Relativity Diet over three years ago, I placed a great deal of emphasis on resistance training, as a component to weight-loss and a healthy lifestyle; and now that particular issue has become all the rage in the medical community. There is effort afoot to categorize the age-related loss of muscle as a disease. A disease to be known by the name of Sarcopenia, which is a word derived from the Greek words for “vanishing flesh.”
It will become the new Osteoporosis. Everybody knows what osteoporosis is. I can’t remember the last time I reviewed the medication record for an elderly woman and didn’t see some sort of a calcium supplementation, which is a good thing because osteoporosis is bad, and much attention is paid towards it. Most women should have a bone density test at some point; it’s almost as common as a mammogram now. So we agree, having a nice strong skeleton, with thick bones stronger than limbs of oak, is good; but, what good is that nice skeleton you have there if you don’t have good muscles to move it around? People don’t say, my, my… look at that nice skeleton as you collapse breathlessly in your reclining beach chair on a hot summer day at Murphy Park, after a hard mile swim in the bay, your muscles swollen from their effort-induced tumescence; no, they say something more like, wow, look at that six-pack…she must work out.
Vanishing flesh… sounds absolutely ghastly, an appropriate topic for the scary month of Halloween, and if you’re beyond thirty and don’t participate in resistance training, you are already vanishing, maybe not your fat mass, but at least your muscle is. Beyond thirty, the loss of muscle mass is 10% per decade; from 60-70 it accelerates to 15% per decade; and beyond that it’s approximately 30% per decade. Scared yet? Are there goose bumps on your arms? I hope so, because this is important. It has everything to do with countering the deleterious effects of aging and loss of functionality, and quality of life.
I have written that resistance training is not as intuitive as aerobic training. When most people think of exercise, the first thing that comes to mind is walking or jogging or bike riding; all of which are good—for cardiovascular health; but abysmal for maintaining muscle mass. Although sarcopenia is multi-factorial, having causes other than simply lack of resistance training, resistance training is the most important, and identifying and treating any of the other factors is useless without exercise.
So, what are the other factors? There are dietary considerations of course, the most important being an adequate protein intake, which might very well be deficient in older adults. Another factor is the age-related decline in certain hormones such as; Growth Hormone and testosterone. Did you know women need testosterone too? Although they need less, it is as essential to their health as it is for men. There may be a role for nutritional supplements such as; creatine, vit. D, whey protein, acetyl-L-carnitine, glutamine, and potassium bicarbonate.
Now, please don’t rush out and by bottles of all this stuff, you know how I feel about that, if you’ve read my book. The great majority of folks who eat a healthy, balanced diet, as I describe in The Relativity Diet, would be unlike to have any deficiencies, other than hormonal, perhaps. Your doctor can run the appropriate blood tests necessary to diagnose a hormonal deficiency, and if present, Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be given consideration.
You and your doctor have been worrying about your skeleton for years, now it’s time to start worrying about your muscles. Although it is easier to prevent sarcopenia that it is to treat it, it is treatable, and it is never too late to start. So, it’s time to get off the couch, pick up a weight or resistance band, and get busy living…and don’t say I didn’t tell you so.