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Dec 27, 2023

Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss): Symptoms & Causes

As we age, our bodies undergo numerous changes, and one of the less discussed but impactful aspects is the loss of muscle mass and strength. Sarcopenia, often referred to as the "silent thief," is a condition characterized by the gradual loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function. Let’s delve into the intricacies of sarcopenia, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and proactive measures to counteract its effects.

Defining Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia stems from the Greek words "sarx," meaning flesh, and "penia," meaning loss. Essentially, meaning of sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and function associated with ageing. While a certain degree of muscle loss is a natural part of the ageing process, sarcopenia represents an accelerated and pathological decline that can impact an individual's overall health and quality of life.

Causes of Sarcopenia

As Sarcopenia mainly affects the elderly, the causes are also majorly age-related:

Hormonal Changes

As individuals age, there is a natural decline in hormone levels, including testosterone and growth hormone, both of which play crucial roles in maintaining muscle mass. These hormonal changes contribute to the gradual loss of muscle tissue.

Decreased Physical Activity

A sedentary lifestyle, common in older adults, can exacerbate muscle loss. Lack of regular physical activity, including resistance training and aerobic exercise, contributes to muscle atrophy and weakness.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Inadequate protein intake, along with deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, can compromise muscle health. Protein is particularly crucial for muscle synthesis, repair, and maintenance.

Chronic Inflammation

Persistent inflammation, often associated with conditions like arthritis or chronic diseases, can accelerate muscle wasting. Inflammation triggers the release of cytokines that promote muscle breakdown.

Neuromuscular Changes

Aging also brings about changes in the nervous system, affecting the signals sent to the muscles. Reduced motor unit activation and impaired neuromuscular coordination contribute to muscle weakness.

Insulin Resistance

A common occurrence with age, insulin resistance can negatively impact muscle protein synthesis and contribute to the development of sarcopenia. When you grow old, you become more susceptible to various health issues, which might cause great distress to you. Having the support of health insurance in your old age is important to deal with the constant changes your body goes through.

Symptoms of Sarcopenia

The progression of sarcopenia is often insidious, and symptoms may not be immediately apparent. However, as the condition advances, individuals may experience:

Muscle Weakness

Gradual loss of muscle strength, especially in the legs and upper body, leading to difficulties in performing daily activities.

Reduced Stamina

Individuals with sarcopenia may notice a decline in endurance and increased fatigue during physical activities.

Impaired Balance and Mobility

Weakening of the muscles can affect balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls and fractures.

Unintentional Weight Loss

Sarcopenia can contribute to unintended weight loss due to the loss of lean muscle mass.

Diagnosis and Assessment

Diagnosing sarcopenia involves a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals. Some common assessment methods include:

Physical Examination

Healthcare providers may assess muscle strength, function, and overall physical performance through various tests. If you are covered by critical illness insurance, check if the tests are covered by the policy. Claims are subject to terms and conditions set forth under health insurance policy.*

Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)

DEXA scans can measure muscle mass and identify areas of muscle loss, helping in the diagnosis of sarcopenia.

Functional Tests

Functional tests, like the Timed Up and Go test or the 6-Minute Walk test, assess mobility, balance, and overall physical function.

Preventing and Managing Sarcopenia

The following tips can help in preventing the development of sarcopenia in your body:

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity, including both resistance training and aerobic exercise, is crucial in preserving muscle mass and strength. Strength training exercises, such as weightlifting, can promote muscle growth and improve overall function.

Balanced Nutrition

Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle health. Consuming a well-balanced diet with sufficient protein, along with essential vitamins and minerals, can support muscle maintenance and repair.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

In some cases, especially when hormonal imbalances contribute to sarcopenia, hormone replacement therapy may be considered under the guidance of healthcare professionals.

Regular Health Check-ups

Routine health check-ups may allow for the early detection of conditions that may contribute to sarcopenia, such as hormonal imbalances or nutritional deficiencies.

Medication Review

Some medications may have side effects that contribute to muscle loss. Periodic reviews of medications with healthcare providers can help mitigate potential risks.


Sarcopenia is a complex and multifactorial condition that may significantly impact the health and well-being of individuals, especially as they age. Understanding the causes, recognizing symptoms, and implementing preventive measures are crucial steps in addressing and managing sarcopenia. Additionally, having all-round coverage of medical insurance also helps in taking care of financial expenses for the treatment of health ailments. By using the health insurance calculator, you can purchase a policy that is beneficial for you and your loved ones.   *Standard T&C Apply Insurance is the subject matter of solicitation. For more details on benefits, exclusions, limitations, terms, and conditions, please read the sales brochure/policy wording carefully before concluding a sale.

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