What Is Sarcopenia?

I ran across this overview of sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. In one short paragraph (I broke it up into 5 paragraphs to isolate the kernels) Evans describes what the aging body is up against.

What Is Sarcopenia?, William J. Evans, Journals of Gerontology, November 1995

Here’s the Abstract:

Advancing adult age is associated with profound changes in body composition, the principal component of which is a decrease in skeletal muscle mass. This age-related loss in skeletal muscle has been referred to as sarcopenia.

Age-related reduction in muscle is a direct cause of the age-related decrease in muscle strength. Muscle mass (not function) appears to be the major determinant of the age- and sex-related differences in strength. This relationship is independent of muscle location (upper vs lower extremities) and function (extension vs flexion).

Reduced muscle strength in the elderly is a major cause for their increased prevalence of disability. With advancing age and extremely low activity levels seen in the very old, muscle strength is a critical component of walking ability. The high prevalence of falls among the institutionalized elderly may be a consequence of their lower muscle strength.

Daily energy expenditure declines progressively throughout adult life. In sedentary individuals, the main determinant of energy expenditure is fat-free mass, which declines by about 15% between the third and eighth decade of life, contributing to a lower basal metabolic rate in the elderly. Data indicate that preservation of muscle mass and prevention of sarcopenia can help prevent the decrease in metabolic rate.

In addition to its role in energy metabolism, skeletal muscle and its age-related decline may contribute to such age-associated changes as reduction in bone density, insulin sensitivity, and aerobic capacity. For these reasons, strategies for preservation of muscle mass with advancing age and for increasing muscle mass and strength in the previously sedentary elderly may be an important way to increase functional independence and decrease the prevalence of many age-associated chronic diseases.

People with sarcopenia have a higher risk of falls. That reminded me of this… Hillary Clinton is in India promoting her book, “What Happened”. Yahoo News included this video of Clinton stumbling on stairs while there. I’m not saying she has sarcopenia. I don’t know. But this is the kind of fall (or would have been) that lands people in the hospital with a broken hip. That’s what sarcopenia can do. She is fortunate she had a helper.

8 thoughts on “What Is Sarcopenia?

  1. Anonymous

    Having turned 70, I have found that my leg muscles in particular are somewhat weaker. Stairs no problem, walking no problem, but if I squat down to look at something, say, under the sink, I have a terrible time getting back up again.


  2. Anonymous

    Oh, terrible about HRC. She *is* my age, so it might be sarcopenia (not saying it definitely is). You know how the opposing party would have reacted to this…. šŸ˜¦


    1. Bix Post author

      I noticed that all the videos of it were sourced from, as you say, the opposing party. I think it has medical merit, a teaching moment. I mean, I think you can discuss it without ridicule.


    1. Bix Post author

      I agree, inner ear. It could also be a med she’s taking, a sleep aid, antihistamine, blood pressure. Not saying she’s taking any of that, but the possibilities are many.



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