A large variety of chronic diseases is related to changes in body composition. The loss of skeletal muscle mass is particularly critical with regard to an older adult’s quality of life due to the fact that it could lead to decreases in exercise ability and activities of daily living. Cachexia is defined as a condition in which one loses more than 5% of body weight in the duration of 12 months and is associated with the presence of a chronic disease, such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure. Much research has been done in the past several years in regards to finding new treatments to prevent muscle deterioration and cachexia is patients suffering from chronic diseases, but also the muscle deterioration related to “healthy aging.”
Many recent studies that explored the effects of nutritional supplements on both healthy older adults and patients with chronic diseases experiencing muscle deterioration found that supplements such as fish oil, whey protein, and quercitin (a flavonol naturally present in leaves, fruits, and vegetables) decrease the progression of normal muscle mass and function deterioration in older adults and should be recognized as a therapeutic strategy to prevent sarcopenia and maintain physical functioning in older adults.
Studies have found that exercise training, such as respiratory muscle training, is also highly beneficial to healthy older adults, as well as patients with chronic diseases, in that it can prevent muscle loss from decreased daily activity.
Muscle wasting is prevalent among older adults, especially those who need intensive care, such as those in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Appropriate nutritional supplementation and exercise training should be incorporated in the daily care of older adult residents in these types of facilities to maintain quality of life.