What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is a condition characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength and function. Although it is primarily a disease of the elderly, its development may be associated with conditions that are not exclusively seen in older people. Sarcopenia is strictly correlated with physical disability, poor quality of life and death.
Risk factors for sarcopenia include age, gender, nutritional status and level of physical activity. In conditions such as malignancy, rheumatoid arthritis and aging, lean body mass is lost while fat mass may be preserved or even increased.
The loss in muscle mass may be associated with increased body fat so that, despite normal weight, there is marked weakness. This is a condition called sarcopenic obesity.
There is an important correlation between inactivity and losses of muscle mass and strength, which suggests that physical activity should be a protective factor for the prevention but also the management of sarcopenia.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has in many cases resulted in reduction of physical activity and changes in dietary intakes that have the potential to accelerate sarcopenia as well as increase body fat. These changes in body composition are also associated with several chronic lifestyle diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, osteoporosis, frailty, cognitive decline, and depression.
Sarcopenia in the US
Baumgartner et al. found that prevalence increased from 13-24% in persons under 70 years of age to > 50% in persons over 80 years of age. This study also showed that the prevalence and the severity of sarcopenia significantly increased with age and is associated with physical disability (1).