If you’re lucky enough to make it into your 50s and beyond, you have a 100% chance of losing muscle mass

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Rather than risk falls, low energy and other side effects of age-related muscle loss, longevity expert Joseph Maroon, MD, FACS explains what you can do starting now. 

Many people fear losing their cognitive ability as they age. Others focus on preserving their bone and joint health. They’ll take steps to support their brain, bones and joints even though only a percentage of people will ever experience problems in those areas. But most people ignore a looming issue that’s as serious, or more serious, and that affects everyone over age 50: age-related muscle loss. Alarmingly, if you don’t do something about losing muscle mass, it could ultimately lead to losing your physical independence and quality of life. 

Age-related muscle loss and quality of life 

Muscle loss is a part of the aging process many doctors don’t discuss during your annual physical. Everyone’s body gradually becomes less efficient at replenishing muscle tissue. If you’re weakened by diminished muscle mass, you may find it harder to get out of a chair, walk the dog or carry in groceries. You may feel more fatigued. Muscle loss also increases your risk of falls and fractures.    

“I’m in the fourth quarter of life myself and working diligently to maintain my own muscle mass,” confirms renowned neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon, MD, FACS, a veteran of 72 triathlons and eight Ironman triathlons. “Thankfully, muscle mass is super easy to measure so you can forecast where you’re headed. Even better: New science shows that you can get a jump start on increasing your muscle mass, even without exercise, by supplementing with an ingredient called HMB, that is readily available in dietary supplements.”   

How’s your grip? 

“Few people realize their grip strength doesn’t just measure the strength of their hands. It’s also an excellent indicator of their muscle health and is correlated with their longevity. For example, some studies have found that strong grip strength correlates with lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Maroon. “You can buy an inexpensive grip strength dynamometer online for about $20 that will give you a baseline. This simple device is growing in importance as a diagnostic tool.”

From there, Maroon advises simple steps to maintain and improve your muscle health at any age. “There are plenty of septuagenarians and even octogenarians who, like myself, are doing the right things to support their overall wellness.” These steps include:

  • Be more mindful of your diet: “A poor diet can contribute to the deterioration of your body, including your brain. When you eat a fast-food burger infused with antibiotics and hormones, washed down with a bottle of phosphoric acid and 12 teaspoons of sugar in your soda, it will create inflammation in your body. That is a common cause of many chronic diseases.” 
  • Take a quality muscle health supplement. “Most people think that if they just consume enough protein, our muscles will be fine. But as we age, we can’t process protein as well as we once did. However, just as adding vitamin D to calcium improves its bone health benefits, and combination of glucosamine with chondroitin helps your joints, adding HMB plus Vitamin D3 to your daily protein intake will improve your muscle health.

“Nothing else helps to stop muscle loss and increase muscle mass as well as HMB, which is incredibly unique because it stimulates the body to make protein and also decreases protein break down. Look for supplements that contain both HMB and Vitamin D3 because results of a year-long study involving healthy adults over age 60 found this specific combination significantly improved muscle function in older adults, even without exercise. The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, also found that HMB plus D3 helped people feel more energetic. So, you might be more inclined to exercise.”   

  • Sit less, move more. “Many people stop exercising because they get older; what they don’t realize is that they get older because they stop exercising. If you don’t use it, you do lose it to some extent. While exercise is important for everyone, it is especially crucial for older adults to improve cognitive function while increasing muscle mass and strength.” 
  • Avoid environmental toxins. “Smoking and drinking are two common toxins. There’s also indoor air pollution which may be a bigger factor now because of the pandemic. It’s a good excuse to take a daily walk outdoors and enjoy nature.” 
  • Find your balance. “In my book, Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life,” I describe the importance of avoiding burnout and how to develop Resilience. The four key areas to rebalancing your life are good health, a sense of spirituality, meaningful work and strong relationships.” 

Maroon concludes: “Everything you do in your life involves your muscles. Allowing them to gradually diminish jeopardizes your ability to live life on your terms. Taking better care of your muscle health may help you age better overall.” 

For additional information on this HMB study, visit www.myHMB.com/NIH Study/.