A few years ago I broke my elbow. My arm was completely immobilised for 3 months and when the support finally came off, I was horrified to see that I had lost almost all the muscle on my left arm. I mentioned this to the physio and she told me it was due to sarcopenia, and that as we get past 50, our ability to grow and even maintain muscle mass is greatly decreased.
I googled it. It turns out that sarcopenia is also called the "triple whammy": as we age, we eat less protein, as we have less appetite and develop dental problems to chew. We also absorb less of the protein that we do eat, due to our bodies becoming less efficient. And finally, we exercise less. All three lead to rapid muscle loss.
The more I read about it, the more I learned that that is exactly what my 81-year-old mother is suffering from. Recently she fell down the stairs. Luckily, she had only a few scrapes. Most old ladies who fall break their hips or femurs. 67% of women over 70 who have a catastrophic break after a fall are dead within a year. Sarcopenia affects women more, but men are not immune. Not only is muscle lost from the legs but also from the feet. This leads to balance problems and then falls. My previously strong mum is now tottery on her feet.
Another downside of having less muscle and exercising less is that we become more insulin resistant as our muscles use up sugar when we exercise. The onset of sarcopenia usually brings diabetes with it. The experts agree that as we age, we should always seek to boost our protein intake and step up our exercise routine. They say that gyms are full of young people when they should be full of the old. They recommend walking or cycling, doing squats and dead lifts, and standing on one foot for several minutes every day or at least 5 times per week. Also, we should try to lift weights. Whether that is at a gym or at home doesn't matter. Youtube is full of video tutorials with great exercises to do with simple dumbbells at home. I've begged my mum to eat more protein yogurts and use her exercise bike but there is just no talking to her. She is getting so unsteady and yet refuses to use a stick or a zimmer. I have the dread that the next fall is only a matter of time.
So Quillers, I guess the takeaway is that if you don't play a sport or exercise regularly, maybe now is the time to think about starting. Getting old is no joke! To think that years ago the old were given "bed rest" and became bedridden. Years and years spent in bed with rapidly decreasing health and bed sores. Thankfully those days are gone but it is up to us to look after our muscles if we want any quality of life in our final years.