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Sarcopenia: A Lesser-known Cause of Falls

Falling is the most preventable cause of injury to seniors, with one out of four seniors falling down each year. Less than half of those seniors who do fall will tell their doctors, and falling one time doubles your chances of falling again. One out of five falls will cause a serious injury such as a broken bone or head trauma. This means that one out of twenty seniors is seriously injured by a fall each year, making it one of the biggest dangers to older adults.

One of the most common causes of falls also happens to be one that many seniors have never even heard of. It is called sarcopenia, and it is defined as a loss of muscle mass, causing the muscles to become weak.

Beginning for most people around age 45, the loss of muscle mass due to sarcopenia increases gradually, so that by age 65, people suffering from it have lost approximately half of their musculature, especially for those that are sedentary. This extreme weakness of the muscles causes problems in everyday living, making it difficult to get up out of a chair or ascend a flight of stairs. This often leads to falls, and weak muscles can cause or accelerate osteoporosis, making those falls more severe.

Risk factors for sarcopenia include gender, with women being more susceptible, and a decline in activity and nutritional intake. Prevention of sarcopenia involves getting regular exercise, ideally a mix of aerobic and resistance exercises. A diet rich in protein, such as eggs, legumes, lean meats and fish can help maintain muscle mass as well.