Declining Muscle Mass is Part of Aging, but Not Inevitable, from the March 2016 Harvard Men's Health Watch

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While most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetime, it is possible to rebuild and maintain muscle with a progressive resistance training program and a higher-protein diet.

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of getting older. After age 30, men begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade. In fact, most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetime. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase a person’s risk of falls and fractures.

But just because a man loses muscle mass does not mean it is gone forever, according to the March 2016 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch. “Older men can indeed increase muscle mass lost as a consequence of aging,” says Dr. Thomas W. Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It takes dedication and a plan, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.”

One of the best ways to build muscle mass is progressive resistance training, or PRT, says Dr. Storer. PRT gradually increases workout volume—weight, reps, and sets—as strength and endurance improve. This approach builds muscle while helping to avoid exercise plateaus.

Diet is equally important, adds Dr. Storer. Research suggests older adults need higher amounts of protein in their diet, which the body breaks down into amino acids to use for muscle growth.

To learn more, read the full-length article: “Preserve your muscle mass

Also in the March 2016 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:

  •     Gain extra benefits from a lower blood pressure
  •     Foster stronger social connections
  •     Treat and prevent sciatic pain
  •     How to prepare for your physical exam

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Kristen Rapoza
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