Sarcopenia and loss of strength

with advice from Daniel Butler, CEP

Sarcopenia and loss of strength

Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, is a part of what has been called “the slippery slope of aging.”

As people age, they often start to experience sarcopenia, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Having weaker muscles and bones, plus the arthritis caused by years of wear and tear, can make movement more difficult and painful. The pain leads to less activity, which contributes to weaker bones and muscles, making it even more difficult to move. And so on.

Doctors and scientists are still not quite sure what causes sarcopenia, but they have linked a number of factors to its development, according to the Mayo Clinic: age-associated hormone changes, physical inactivity, inflammation, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Because inactivity can lead to sarcopenia, doctors encourage older adults to exercise more to build muscle mass.

Exercise increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss.Daniel Butler, a personal trainer and clinical exercise specialist who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), is an expert in helping people avoid age-related physical problems. He points out that exercise not only builds body mass, but it also releases some of the hormones that start to dwindle as we age, like testosterone and growth hormones.

In addition, it can help older adults lose weight, reducing the pain associated with arthritis; having more weight on your frame can exponentially increase the pressure on your joints. So activity increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss. Win, win, win!

If you haven’t been very active and don’t know where to begin, says Daniel, go for a walk. Walking doesn’t take any special skills, and in many areas of the country can be done outside year-round. If it’s too cold outside right now, he adds, there are several places to walk indoors, like shopping malls, commercial gyms and community centers.

Daniel notes that water exercise is a great alternative. Just like walking, it can be done indoors or outside, and the resistance provided by the water is enough to strengthen bones and muscles.

If you’re hesitant about trying a new activity on your own, talk to your physical therapist — PTs can create a walking or exercise program to build muscle mass at a rate that you are comfortable with. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

It's important for seniors to avoid frailty.The key to aging well is avoiding frailty, the last step in the “slippery slope.” Daniel recommends keeping an eye on your bone density through DEXA scans, and then taking steps, such as proper diet and exercise, to maintain strong and healthy bones. He also notes that regular balance screenings can detect loss of equilibrium. If loss of balance is present, there are exercise and physical therapy protocols that can help restore balance.

The last point Daniel makes is that it’s important for seniors to be social. Meeting up with friends outside the house, whether you’re going for a walk or seeing a movie together, gets you off the couch and moving — and the more you move, the better you’ll feel.

 

Daniel Butler, CEP Daniel Butler, CEP, has been a personal trainer for more than 10 years at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. A former Marine, Daniel holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist and the Arthritis Foundation as an aquatic instructor, and he completed his B.S. in health administration in 2012.

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How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

How Pilates and PT help you stay active as you get older

As we grow older, our bodies change. While it may sound counterintuitive, staying activeis the best solution when our joints start to ache and our energy starts to fade. (Isaac Newton probably had no idea he was also talking about the human body when he explained that a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion remains in motion.)

Two ways to remain in motion as we age are physical therapy and Pilates. As we’ve pointed out in the past, physical therapy helps maintain and improve your health as you age. “Therapy helps to promote an increased awareness of your body,” says physical therapist Rachelle Hill. At Moreau Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Louisiana), Rachelle and her fellow PTs apply therapy to improve posture and reduce back pain,evaluate gait to make walking more efficient and less painful, and improve balance toreduce the risk of falls, she explains.

If you're exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you're at risk of doing more harm than good.In addition, if you’re exercising incorrectly or compensating because of pain, you’re at risk of doing more harm than good. “Doing the wrong exercise or doing an exercise incorrectly can result in more pain or even joint damage,” notes Kristina Holland, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Clinton, Tennessee. Physical therapist Jessica Loncar agrees. She points out that exercise in a safe, controlled environment under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist goes a long way toward improving quality of life. A STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and Instructor Trainer for MERRITHEW™ (a Physiquality partner), Jessica reminds us that physical therapy is good for improving strength, balance, mobility and overall fitness.

Pilates exercises are designed to restore the natural curves of the spine and rebalance the muscles around the joints, with a focus on core stability, pelvic and shoulder girdle stabilization, neutral alignment and breathing. Pilates and physical therapy go hand in hand in teaching efficient movement patterns, which will keep us healthy as we age, explains Rachelle. Because Pilates focuses on proper back alignment and strengthening and lengthening the spine, she says, the back becomes stronger, preventing early wear and tear and reducing pain, as well as the risk of injury. This is key to staying active as one ages, as back pain often causes people to quit exercising for fear of further pain.

Many physical therapists often incorporate Pilates into their rehabilitation programs because of how it can be used to strengthen the body and improve flexibility with low-impact exercises. Mika Yoshida, a Pilates instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program atClinton Physical Therapy Center, notes that this is especially beneficial after an injury or joint surgery, when one often loses range of motion in the affected joint. And while some of her students blame their lack of flexibility on their age, Mika reminds them that incorporating Pilates exercises into their daily or weekly regimen can improve their flexibility, regardless of their age.

Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle.If you’re dealing with joint pain or haven’t exercised in a while,Pilates is an excellent way to ease back into a more active lifestyle. A certified instructor like Jessica will know how to adapt exercises for your specific body and work with you to grow stronger. And if you take a class at a physical therapy clinic, you may end up with a physical therapist like Rachelle teaching your class. This means that she’ll zero in on any musculoskeletal weaknesses you have, and, if you need it, recommend coming into the clinic as a patient.

Practicing Pilates, says Mika, is like maintaining your car: You get an oil change for your car so that it can run for another 5,000 miles. You practice Pilates so that your body continues to move efficiently for years!

 

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What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

What is dementia, and how does rehabilitation therapy help?

Getting older can be scary. We worry about weaker bones and osteoporosis. We worry about losing our balance and falling, which can lead to serious injury. And many of us worry about losing our memory. Older adults and their family members should know that there is a difference between becoming a little more forgetful (what some elders call their “senior moments”) and the early signs of dementia.

Dementia is more than being forgetful; it’s categorized by the loss of cognitive skills, or the way that a person can consider and make decisions. The National Institutes of Health explain that compared to mild forgetfulness, dementia impacts daily life, interferes with decision-making, and affects every-day tasks. Dementia can affect “memory, language skills, visual perception, and the ability to focus and pay attention.” It is caused by damage to brain cells; when the brain’s cells can’t communicate properly, the way we navigate the world around us is affected.

Dementia is often but not always permanent.Dementia is not always permanent. It can be caused by excess fluid in the brain (normal pressure hydrocephalus), infections, head injuries and brain tumors, or reactions to alcohol or medication. If these conditions are treated, it is possible that the dementia will recede.

Unfortunately, most causes of dementia are irreversible.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for as much as 80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s causes permanent changes in the brain, affecting short-term memory and learning at first, and eventually causing almost complete memory loss.Other irreversible causes of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease. Some people have a combination of conditions that cause the dementia, referred to as mixed dementia.

If you or a loved one is concerned about recent memory loss, the Alzheimer’s Association has posted 10 early signs that you might be at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you are starting to feel confused when you solve problems, have issues completing familiar tasks at home or at work, or feel yourself withdrawing from work or social activities, it may be time to talk to your physician about whether you’re at risk for dementia.

The process of dementia can be slowed down with both medication and therapy.While irreversible dementia isn’t curable, the process can be slowed with both medications (prescribed by your doctor) and some types of rehabilitation therapy. Specially trained speech-language pathologists help patients with dementia and memory loss retain cognitive skills as long as possible. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the professional organization of speech-language pathologists, SLPs focus on the “cognitive aspects of communication, including attention, memory, sequencing, problem solving, and executive functioning.”

Others on the rehabilitation team can also help people with dementia. Occupational therapists can help to set up safe environments without obstacles; if the person is still living at home in the early stages of dementia, an OT can do an assessment to reduce the risk of falling and remove the risk of dangerous items (like flammable liquids or the use of the stove). OTs and SLPs can create a home environment where reminders are posted about daily tasks, helping the patient to remain independent for as long as possible. Andphysical therapists can work with the person to keep her physically active for as long as she is able, which can also contribute to slowing down memory loss, while reducing the chances of falling.

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