When I think of the elderly population, the first thing that comes to mind is a small, withered, hunch-backed individual using a walker or cane. And unfortunately many of our seniors fit this description.
Many elderly people have or will develop Sarcopenia at some point in their lives. Sarcopenia is a condition where there is a loss of lean muscle tissue, but no weight change due to the fat replacing the lost muscle mass. This condition can be caused by many factors, with malnutrition and lack of physical activity being very common. As mentioned in a previous post, “What are our Elders REALLY Eating” most of this population suffers from malnutrition.
Sarcopenia (like many other illnesses) develops over time and the severity is seen over a continuum from mild to critical. A link has been seen between Sarcopenia and increased morbidity due to increased falls, functional decline, osteoporosis, impaired thermoregulation and glucose intolerance (Prousky, p29).
Calculating a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) can give some cues to individuals who are underweight or obese, however as mentioned earlier, someone with Sarcopenia may not observe any weight changes.
BMI = weight (kg)/ height (m)2
*note that BMI measurements cannot distinguish between overweight and very muscular individuals
Another concern for many seniors is that they are typically on multiple drugs which pose concern for drug-interactions with other medications and treatments. Nutritional changes can be a safer way to improve muscle mass and avoid Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR), however no supplement or food can be without some potential for interaction.
If you believe that you or someone you know may have Sarcopenia please see your Medical or Naturopathic Doctor before adopting any lifestyle changes. NEVER self-prescribe or alter your current medications without the supervision of your Primary Health Care Physician.
Some common nutritional and physical benefits for Sarcopenia that you can ask your MD or ND about includes:
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins and minerals working synergistically together)
- Essential amino acids (increasing lean protein intake or supplemental form)
- Creatine monohydrate
- possibly Fish oils (their other health benefits for mental and cardiac health make them extremely beneficial)
- Lastly, increasing daily physical activities and strength training.
Let’s help to nourish and strengthen our elderly population to live empowered lives.
Prousky, J. Principles & Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition. CCNM Press, 2008.
For more information please email me at contact@DrAlisonChen.com. Do you have any other suggestions or comments? I invite you to share below.