Muscle Loss Linked to Chronic Inflammation

Many physiological changes occur with aging, and recent research shows that sarcopenia and loss of overall muscle strength can be added to the list of health concerns associated with unaddressed inflammation. Recent research shows that age-related chronic low-grade inflammation is a contributing factor to sarcopenia and affects both the breakdown and synthesis of muscle. Older people who suffer from sarcopenia are more likely to have high blood levels of the inflammatory markers such as CRP, SED rate and adipoenctin.

What is Sarcopenia?

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function that generally appears after the age of 40 and accelerates after the age of 75. It is estimated that between 25 and 50 percent of North Americans over the age of 65 suffer from sarcopenia that is significant enough to limit their daily activities. Age-related loss of muscle strength robs older adults of their independence and heightens their risk of experiencing devastating injuries and possibly death from sudden falls and other accidents. While mostly observed in physically inactive adults, sarcopenia is also seen in older adults that remain physically active throughout their lives. Regularly engaging in physical activity is essential to avoiding sarcopenia, but inactivity isn’t the only contributing factor. Sarcopenia is a multifaceted disease that may result due to inflammation, nutritional imbalances and lack of resistance training, neurological decline and mitochondrial decline.

Prevent and Slow Muscle Loss

Scientists are working to understand the causes of sarcopenia; however, most interventions have focused on improving muscle strength and nutrition. Exercise provides some stimulus and benefits, but during times of bed rest, such as after surgery or injury, mobility may be severely limited. One study set out to determine if supplementation with essential amino acids (EAA) could offset muscle loss experienced during prolonged inactivity. During the 28-day trial, researchers observed lean leg mass was maintained in the experimental group. The group also retained more muscle strength than the control group. Researchers determined, “supplementation may represent a viable intervention for individuals at risk of sarcopenia due to immobility or prolonged bed rest.” Your lifestyle plays a significant role in building strong muscle as you age. Many people assume they can add more protein to their diets to make up for lost muscle mass, but that may not be enough. The role of protein in food is not to provide our bodies with proteins directly, but to supply the amino acids from which the body can make its own proteins. When we eat foods that supply each essential amino acid in adequate amounts, our body supports protein synthesis.

Check Your Inflammation

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to damage and helps fight infection and heal injuries. However, inflammation, like stress, is meant to be an acute process in the body, designed to serve a purpose, then resolve. When it becomes chronic, it depletes the body’s resources and causes deep damage to tissues and organ systems. A simple blood test is used to measure C – reactive protein (CRP) in the body. The CRP test isn’t site-specific, so it shows the overall level of inflammation and a low level of CRP doesn’t necessarily mean there is no inflammation present. There are simple steps you can take to help support healthy inflammation. Aim to avoid pro-inflammatory foods and choose high-quality vegetables rich in antioxidants, healthy fats and drink enough water. Other healthy lifestyle choices include managing stress and maintaining healthy body weight.

Use It or Lose It

Adopting a regular exercise program is another way to slow down the loss of strength and coordination. Any type of exercise is better than none; however, resistance training (using weights, machines or bands) is critical for those looking to preserve or increase muscle strength and mass. Regular exercise that includes strength training promotes mobility, overall fitness and improves bone health as well. New research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, reported that a 20-minute session of moderate exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects. Suzi Hong, Ph.D., one of the studies researchers says, “Our study found one session of about twenty minutes of moderate exercise resulted in a 5 percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF.” The primary role of TNF, which is a type of protein that is involved in systemic inflammation, is to regulate immune cells. By adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes balanced dietary modifications, nutritional supplements and regular physical exercise, it is possible to support healthy inflammation response in the body and preserve muscle strength at any age!
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