Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass due to the natural aging process.
This decrease in muscle leads to a reduction in a person's strength. As a result, their balance and gait are also affected.
Sarcopenia can have an impact on a person's ability to perform everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, lifting objects, and walking.
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According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), muscle mass starts to decline around the age of 40. The loss of muscle tissue may progress more rapidly when a person reaches their 60s and 70s.
Although the exact rate of decline varies, a person may lose 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass per decade.
The loss of muscle mass involves both a reduction in the number of muscle fibers and a decrease in their size. The combination of fewer and smaller muscle fibers causes the muscles to atrophy or shrink.
As a person ages, certain changes take place in the body that play a role in the development of sarcopenia.
For example, as a person gets older, their body's ability to produce the proteins that the muscles need to grow decreases. When protein production falls, individual muscle cells get smaller.
Age-related hormonal changes may also lead to a decrease in muscle mass. Typically, levels of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) affect muscle growth and muscle mass.
The decline in hormone levels may be a contributing factor to the loss of muscle mass.