How To Move Without Pain

Are you acquainted with the concept of sarcopenia?

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Sarcopenia, initially defined as the reduction of lean muscle associated with aging, holds particular significance for women over 50 grappling with osteoporosis, osteopenia, or susceptibility to these conditions. Understanding the correlation between muscle mass decline and bone loss is crucial.

A brief historical note: The term “sarcopenia” emerged in 1989 during a discussion led by Irwin Rosenberg at an aging-focused epidemiology meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Initially, it portrayed an inevitable progression of muscle loss in the elderly, but its definition has since evolved. Presently, it encompasses both muscle mass and strength, with the realization that weight or resistance training can deter sarcopenia. Essentially, the axiom “use it or lose it” holds true—more muscle and its consistent utilization lessen the risk of developing sarcopenia.

Enter the term “osteosarcopenia,” a newly coined phrase indicating the intersection of bone and muscle loss. Essentially, being at risk for one condition heightens the risk for the other.

Why is this information pertinent?

Primarily, because exercise and proper nutrition form the primary defense against both sarcopenia and osteosarcopenia. Additionally, intentional weight loss can inadvertently jeopardize bone and muscle health, as witnessed in the case of certain new diabetes medications with touted weight loss benefits.

While I empathize with the desire to shed post-menopausal belly fat, the potential harm to muscles and bones raises a critical question: Is it worth it? Preliminary research, such as a 2021 New England Journal of Medicine article, indicates that weight loss induced by GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may result in the loss of significant lean muscle mass.

Caution is advised, especially considering the off-label use of these drugs for weight loss. Rapid weight loss may signify the loss of essential muscle needed for future well-being.

Building muscle takes time, but the benefits are manifold, contributing not only to weight management but also to improved body size, enhanced strength, and reinforced bones. While these medications offer benefits for those with Type II Diabetes or significant obesity, the potential loss of muscle mass should be carefully weighed against the associated risks, especially concerning cardiovascular health.

Encouragingly, the most effective interventions for heart health, muscle development, and bone strengthening converge: regular exercise

👉 Recommendations:

  • To stave off sarcopenia, prioritize muscle development at any age. 
  • Counteract bone loss by lifting weights, stimulating muscles to pull on bones.
  •  Increase protein intake to provide the necessary building blocks for muscle and bone development.
  • Avoid quick-fix diets or those eliminating entire food groups, as they may compromise essential lean muscle.

Stay resilient, stay active, and embrace a vibrant retirement.

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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