Stay Strong and Preserve Your Independence with These Simple Remedies.
Age might just be a number, but here’s one that absolutely matters:
One out of every three adults age 60 and older suffers from severe muscle
loss, according to a review paper published in
Age and Aging. Starting at age 40, adults can lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass
per decade, with that rate accelerating up to 15 percent per decade by
age 70, explains Suzette Pereira, Ph.D., a research fellow specializing
in muscle health at Abbott Nutrition.
The medical term for muscle loss is sarcopenia. The condition is a driving
force behind fat gain, loss of mobility and function, and even death in
older adults, according to a comprehensive review published in
The Journals of Gerontology.
“Similar to how we think about osteoporosis and protecting your bone
health, we need to think the same way about muscle health,” Pereira
says. “The good news is science shows that with proper nutrition
and exercise, maintaining your muscle can help keep you healthy, independent,
and strong as you age.” Here’s your step-by-step guide to
doing just that.
Eat (a lot) More Protein
“Protein is a critical component in helping rebuild muscle. And while
people generally know that protein is good for them, they may not know
how much they actually need,” Pereira says. Abbott and AARP recently
surveyed adults over 50 and found that 62 percent believed that they were
getting enough protein, but only 17 percent knew the amount they should consume.
How much should you aim to eat each day? More than you think. Research
published in the
American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that a diet with double the recommended daily allowance of protein
significantly improves muscle building in adults ages 52 to 75. That works
out to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or, for a 180-pound
adult, 122.5 grams of daily protein. As you age, muscle becomes less efficient
at using protein, meaning that your intake requirements increase, Pereira explains.
Combine Strength and Endurance Exercises
“Every time you lift, press, or pull a weight, you create microscopic
tears in your muscles. Your body then responds with signals to repair
your muscles and then some,” Pereira says. Lifting weights also
causes the release of key hormones that can further stimulate muscles
to build mass and strength.” Train with light dumbbells and bands—like those in
SilverSneakers classes—and try the weight machines at the gym.
You’ll get the most out of your strength exercises when you perform
them in combination with aerobic or endurance work, says Emilia Ravski,
M.D., a sports medicine specialist with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute
in California. Power walking, running, swimming, cycling, and cardio classes
are all great options for promoting mobility and improving cardiovascular
health, which in turn improves your ability to recover from each strength session.
Check Your Vitamin D Levels
“Vitamin D is well known for its role in healthy bones, but it also
supports muscle health,” says Pereira, noting that as many as 42
percent of adults are deficient in vitamin D and levels tend to continue
declining as we age. After all, it’s likely that you spend less
time out in the sun or drinking glasses of milk than you did when you
were a kid.
Your doctor can perform a routine blood test to determine if your levels
are too low, she says. If they are, increasing your sun exposure (still
wear sunscreen) and filling up on D-rich foods like fatty fish, dairy,
and eggs can help. If you’re still falling short, your doctor may
recommend vitamin D supplements.
Consider Taking HMG Supplements
Short for beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, HMB is a compound that occurs
naturally in the body and promotes muscle growth and faster muscle recovery
following exercise. While HMB exists in very small amounts in some foods
including corn, avocado, and grapefruit, supplementation can significantly
improve older adults’ ability to build muscle while participating
in a resistance-training program, according to research published in
Before beginning any supplementation routine, talk to your doctor about
the best dosage and brands for your unique needs. You can buy HMB supplements
at GNC and most big-box stores. It’s available in isolate or combined
with such nutrients as protein or creatine.