My patients tell me their number one fear of aging is losing their independence.
Having to move into a nursing home or becoming a burden to their children…
So I remind them that the key to remaining independent for life is avoiding the potentially lethal consequences of falling.
Every year, more than 16 million Americans over age 65 suffer a terrible fall. These falls result in hip fractures, repeat falls, extended hospital stays, and even death.
At the Sears Institute for Anti-Aging, we work to address the problems that lead to falling. Our goal is to reverse the signs of physical aging to keep patients active and independent for as long as they live.
When she first came to the clinic, she couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds. In fact, she needed the support of a chair or counter to stand up.
Diane’s fear of falling was keeping her from the activities she loved.
She felt forced to stay home, leading to extreme feelings of depression.
Diane had a severe case of sarcopenia. But no doctor had ever diagnosed her. In fact, she had never heard the word before.
Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging.
Diane isn’t alone in not knowing about it. Mainstream doctors rarely, if ever, bring it up with patients… even though it affects around 45% of the older population. You won’t see any TV ads about it either.
That’s because there’s no drug to treat it, so Big Pharma has no profit.
And while some Big Pharma giants are currently looking for ways to make a buck off sarcopenia, it’s not currently classified as a “disease.” And without that classification, there’s no hope of getting a drug to “cure” it approved by the FDA.
If you do nothing to stop sarcopenia, you will lose about three pounds of muscle every decade. At 65, you’ve potentially lost between 8% and 27% of your muscle mass. By the time you’re 80, you could drop 35% to 40% of your muscle mass.1
But there’s good news. Not only can sarcopenia be stopped in its tracks — it can be reversed.
Diane was determined to get her life – and her independence – back. I started her on a protocol to stop muscle loss and rebuild her strength and agility.
You see, it’s never too late to build muscle. In one study, 21 frail, older people participated in a strength program for 11 weeks. Their muscle mass increased by up to 60%. In addition, they had better balance, strength, and physical ability, making them less likely to fall.2
The best ways to build muscle right now
I’ve helped thousands of patients like Diane prevent sarcopenia and gain muscle mass. I’ve seen frail 80-year-olds double their muscle mass in just a couple of months.
You can do it, too.
- Eat More Protein. Protein provides the basic building blocks for your muscles. But as most people get older, they tend to eat less protein. I advise my patients to eat one gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass. If you weigh 200 pounds and have 20% body fat, you’re carrying 40 pounds of fat. And you have 160 pounds of lean body mass. So you would eat 160 grams of protein each day. If you don’t have any way to measure your body fat, then use an estimate. For men, the average is 15-17%. For women, the average is 18-22%.The best sources of protein are grass-fed red meat, wild-caught fish, pastured poultry and eggs, cheese, and nuts. Protein powders can be a big help. A protein smoothie every day is a reliable way to boost your protein intake and help build new muscle. Look for whey protein from grass-fed animals.
- Power Your Muscles With Nutrients. There are a number of supplements that will keep your muscles strong and powerful. Here are two to start with: Creatine is one of the safest and best-researched supplements to increase muscle mass and strength. It enhances performance, endurance, strength, and speed and boosts the amount of muscle you pack while working out. I recommend 5 grams of creatine daily until you build the muscle you need.L-Arginine: One double-blind study measured the change in muscle strength and lean muscle mass in those taking L-arginine.3 Twenty-two people on a strength-training program took either the L-arginine supplement or a placebo. Those taking the arginine supplement showed a significant increase in muscle strength and lean muscle mass after only five weeks. I recommend supplementing with 5,000 mg of L-arginine a day.
- Use Muscle To Make Muscle. Exercise is the most powerful tool for building muscle. For the biggest impact, I recommend starting with the largest muscles in the body. Those are the quadriceps on the front of your thighs. In one study, researchers had older men do exercises similar to what I recommend in my PACE program. They worked three times per week on their lower body. And their quad strength increased by as much as 226%.4Here’s a simple PACE workout to get you started…
- Place your hands on your hips. Keep your back straight and hold your head high.
- Take a step forward with your right leg until your front knee is bent 90 degrees and your back knee almost touches the ground.
- Use your quad muscle to push back off your leading leg and return to starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg. Alternate until you are slightly out of breath.
To make it truly PACE, increase the challenge slightly with each set. I call that “progressivity.” Also, to get stronger quads and more muscle strength even faster, use “acceleration.” That means shortening your recovery time between sets or getting up to your desired intensity faster.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Janssen et al. “Low relative skeletal muscle mass (sarcopenia) in older persons is associated with functional impairment and physical disability.” Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2002; 50(5):889-96.
2. Melov S, et al. “Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle,” PLoS ONE. 2007;2:e465.
3. Pahlavani N, et al. “The effect of l-arginine supplementation on body composition and performance in male athletes: a double-blinded randomized clinical trial.” January 2017. Eur J Clin Nutr. 71(4).
4. Frontera WR et al. “Strength conditioning in older men: skeletal muscle hypertrophy and improved function.” Journal of Applied Physiology. 1992. 64: 1038-44.