One of the most important considerations when finding patient activities for building and maintaining muscle mass is enjoyment
As we get older, our bodies change, and one aspect that’s crucial for chiropractic patients is maintaining muscle mass. If they want to stay healthy and mobile, they have to.
Mikel Richter, DC, MS, director of clinical development at Airrosti Rehab Centers, took time to answer our questions on this. What follows is the interview, edited for length and clarity.
While aging, why is maintaining muscle mass important for patients?
It’s well known that our bodies start to slow down as we age. This doesn’t have to be a forgone conclusion that we resign ourselves to in all instances. The age-related loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, usually begins during the 4th decade of life. Individuals with higher levels of sarcopenia have significantly higher risk of falls and fractures than those who work to maintain muscle mass and function.
Additionally, loss of muscle mass and discontinuation of hobbies and physical activity tend to form a self-perpetuating cycle. Being proactive in maintaining muscle mass and function not only reduces risk of injury as we age, it also keeps us moving and engaged in more activities.
What are some of the best ways for patients to go about building and maintaining their muscles?
One of the most important considerations when finding activities for building and maintaining muscle mass is enjoyment. While there are certainly activities that are better suited to building muscle than others, consistent and lasting participation are key.
Engage in physical activity you look forward to. Make sure you are adequately trained or have the right coaching to feel comfortable with your ability. Be realistic with your expectations. While continuing physical activity can help reduce and delay sarcopenia, we all lose muscle mass, strength, and coordination at some point.
What are some cautions that DCs should offer their patients about maintaining muscles?
Doctors play a vital role in helping patients maintain function and enjoyment in hobbies and physical activity as they age. Patients should be made aware of the increased risk of fall and injury with aging, but the doctor should be cautious not to overstate the risk or promote a fear avoidance.
Encouraging patients to maintain physical activity, seek out new hobbies, and find things they enjoy doing to stay physically active with the understanding of the positive benefits is a much more productive conversation.
Will having stronger muscles help prevent people from falls or other issues that can happen when they get older?
There is a very strong correlation between fall risk and muscle strength. Approximately one-third of older adults fall at least once a year with 4-5% of those falls resulting in fractures.
Balance and coordination during normal daily activities is dependent on muscular strength and activity. Even something as simple as navigating stairs becomes precarious when our muscles aren’t strong or coordinated enough to keep us stable standing on one leg at a time.
Are there any kinds of supplements that they should take to help with maintaining muscle?
There are a lot of options with promising application when it comes to maintaining muscle mass. While it may seem counterintuitive on the surface, caloric restrictions in diet have a beneficial effect on muscle mass by lowering oxidative stress, reducing systemic inflammation, and attenuating a reduction in motor-neuron units.
Resistance training, whether as a primary activity or simply as a supplement to another active hobby, is particularly effective at building and maintaining muscle mass.
In certain instances, hormone therapy is very beneficial as age-related decline in sex hormones is highly associated with muscle wasting and weakness. There is some evidence to support supplementing with protein that is enriched with vitamin D and leucine, but in the well-nourished patient, it may not be necessary.
There is also potential for a positive impact with supplementation of selenium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, but these are more indicated for the patient who demonstrates a deficiency.