What is Sarcopenia?

Muscles naturally grow — in both strength and size — until age 30. Then they start to decline by as much as 3% to 5% each year. In sarcopenia, muscle loss is significant enough to present a risk to health. According to the International Sarcopenia Initiative,  sarcopenia affects one-third of adults over age 50, and is a component of frailty syndrome and wasting syndrome.

How Is Sarcopenia Diagnosed?

Technically, sarcopenia is defined as muscle mass below two standard deviations from the mean for healthy young adults. However muscle mass is difficult to measure. Clinically, sarcopenia can be diagnosed with a simple questionnaire, called SARC-F.

SARC-F is an acronym that stands for Strength, Assistance in walking, Rising from a chair, Climbing stairs, and Falls. The questionnaire scores answers on the scale of 0 to 2 to the
following questions:

  1. How much difficulty do you have lifting and carrying 10 pounds?
  2. How much difficulty do you have walking across the room?
  3. How much difficulty do you have transferring from a chair or bed?
  4. How much difficulty do you have climbing a flight of ten stairs?
  5. How many times have you fallen in the past year?

A score of 4 or higher indicates sarcopenia.

How is Sarcopenia Treated?

Exercise is a mainstay of treatment for sarcopenia. Resistance exercise is considered the best form of treatment, but any exercise that improves strength and balance is useful. The key is finding an exercise that the individual can do on a regular basis.

Vitamin D insufficiency has also been linked with decreased muscle function. Vitamin D supplementation, in addition to exercise, helps manage sarcopenia.

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