One of the primary health issues in the United States that significantly affects the older adult population is diabetes mellitus. Not only is this disease related to premature aging, chronic diabetes is related to serious physical and cognitive problems as well, particularly among people with poor blood glucose metabolism. Furthermore, the danger of uncontrolled diabetes is reduced quality of life and increased healthcare expenses.
Although there is no universally accepted method of classification, sarcopenia generally refers to the loss of muscle with age. One approach to measure sarcopenia uses the skeletal muscle index. Ways of measuring muscle mass include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and bio-electrical impedance (BIA). Sarcopenia isn’t the only issue that comes with age, however. Fat volume tends to increase with age and can contribute to sarcopenic obesity.
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.”
For frail older adults, the preservation of physical mobility, function, and ultimately independence is of highest importance. Sarcopenia, the degeneration of muscle mass, strength, and function with old age, is a significant part of physical frailty. Not only is it a critical risk factor for decreased mobility and the occurrence of falls and fractures, it is also directly associated with rates of hospitalization and long-term care admissions, heightened disability, diminished independence, quality of life, and ultimately leading to death. Research on nutrient intakes has grown due to it being a modifiable risk factor of sarcopenia. Specifically, protein, essential amino acids, leucine, and vitamin D intake are known as important factors in managing sarcopenia. Not taking enough protein and vitamin D can result in lower muscle mass, physical function and muscle strength, and a risk for falls and fractures.