Eldercare clinicians should attend more often to seniors’ body composition because muscle mass in the arms and legs helps predict longevity in people aged 65 years and older, Brazilian researchers have found.
In a study of more than 800 older adults, investigators discovered that mortality risk increased in women with low muscle mass in their appendages by nearly 63-fold during a four-year observation period and by 11.4-fold in men.
Fortunately, some muscle loss is preventable and age-related decline can even be reversed with physical exercise, especially muscle toning, the researchers note. In addition, dietary protein can help people to build and maintain muscle strength.
The appendicular muscles, which were the focus of this research, not only help move the arms and legs but also stabilize the shoulders and hips. The body’s muscles also help regulate blood sugar, maintain body temperature and produce hormones that affect body organs. They also can influence inflammation in the body.
The incidence of age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, rises dramatically in later years. While up to 13% of adults over age 60 have low muscle mass, the prevalence increases to as high as 50% in people over the age of 80, studies have found. In addition, sarcopenia can remain unnoticed in heavier adults.
The study appeared in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.