A recent UCLA study suggests that increasing muscle mass might extend a person’s life. Until now research has primarily focused on the links between body mass and deaths due to all causes among the elderly. This new research used as its baseline a survey of over 3,500 older men and women conducted between 1988-1994, with a follow-up ten years later to determine who had died of natural causes in the interim. Bioelectrical impedance was employed to assess a muscle mass index for each participant and then compared against the risk for death. They noted that participants who had lived longer also had greater muscle mass. While more evidence is necessary to ascertain a true correlation, this study suggests that muscle mass can be used as a good predictor of the risk of death. The implication for healthcare professionals is clear… a more preemptive approach to age-related muscle mass decline, or sarcopenia, should be implemented system-wide.
Physical therapists are all too familiar with the connection between sarcopenia and injuries in the elderly. They routinely prescribe weight-bearing exercises as part of a post-fall therapeutic plan. It can be inferred from this study that resistance training/weight-lifting is not only rehabilitative, but if incorporated into a weekly exercise regimen it could reduce the incidence of fall. Research has shown a high success rate for PT-supervised sarcopenia exercises even in very frail patients, especially when introduced early in the rehabilitative process. As with other syndromes, sarcopenia is the result of multiple factors including nutritional deficiencies and hormonal changes, as well as a sedentary lifestyle. Any preventive physical therapy for sarcopenia should be comprehensive enough to take those factors into account.
The nature of rehabilitation is changing towards a more holistic, patient-centric approach and in America, the Affordable Care Act is giving even more impetus to that approach. If you are a PT or PTA who either works with or is interested in working with geriatric patients to prevent sarcopenia, call the Centra Team at 800 535 0076 or download our mobile app.