Declining Muscle Mass With Aging Not Inevitable

Older Dudes Can Still Build Muscle

Declining muscle mass is part of aging, but not inevitable,

March 2016 Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Move it or lose it is still part of the program. From building bone density to lean muscle mass, exercise is a given.

Boston, MA — Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of getting older. After age 30, men begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade. In fact, most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetime. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase a person’s risk of falls and fractures.

But just because a man loses muscle mass does not mean it is gone forever, according to the March 2016issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch. “Older men can indeed increase muscle mass lost as a consequence of aging,” says Dr. Thomas W. Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It takes dedication and a plan, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.”

One of the best ways to build muscle mass is progressive resistance training, or PRT, says Dr. Storer. PRT gradually increases workout volume—weight, reps, and sets—as strength and endurance improve. This approach builds muscle while helping to avoid exercise plateaus.

Diet is equally important, adds Dr. Storer. Research suggests older adults need higher amounts of protein in their diet, which the body breaks down into amino acids to use for muscle growth.

To learn more about how to increase muscle mass with PRT and protein, read the full-length article:“Preserve your muscle mass”

Also in the March 2016 issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch:

  • Gain extra benefits from a lower blood pressure
  • Foster stronger social connections
  • Treat and prevent sciatic pain
  • How to prepare for your physical exam

The Harvard Men’s Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


Challenging The Myth Of Alzheimer’s

Journal of Intergenerational Relationships Presents

a New Approach to Cognitive Aging


30 July 2013 Taylor & Francis


miss marple was not an alzheimer's candidateIs treating Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other Aging Associated Cognitive Challenges (AACC) through medical models really the most effective response to diagnoses?

In the article “The Challenges of Cognitive Aging: Integrating Approaches from Neuroscience to Intergenerational Relationships,” published in the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, author Peter Whitehouse suggests a more socially-based approach to treating Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

“Our modern world is challenged by aging demographics, global climate change, political unrest, and economic instability,” says Whitehouse. “Intergenerational approaches to learning and health can foster the kind of long-term intergenerative thinking and valuing that is necessary for human flourishing and even survival in these difficult times. The answers to the challenges of chronic diseases like dementia will not be found in reductionist molecular biology and genetics, but in the redesign of our communities to serve elders, children, and the environment more effectively.”

To demonstrate how intergenerational relationships can assist in addressing some of the social issues that accompany AD and ACCC , Dr. Whitehouse first challenges what he calls the “myth of Alzheimer’s,” or how the new diagnostic criteria for AD and related conditions reveal the limits of medicalization.

Then he details the role of, “The Intergenerational School,” a high performing, public charter school in Ohio that provides learning opportunities for 200 elementary school children and hundreds of adults, some of whom have dementia.

“The school is an intergenerative learning organization built around principles of social construction, educational excellence, lifelong experiential and service learning, and participation in social and political life,” says Whitehouse. Its mission is to create a community that guides individuals in learning the skills and gaining experiences that foster lifelong learning and spirited citizenship.

Sally Newman, Editor of the Journal of Intergenerational Relationship, notes that Whitehouse’s article advances several ideas that prompt further discussion by readers.

“It challenges the notion of Alzheimer’s disease as a disease, and suggests that dementia and cognitive impairments across the lifespan are the biggest challenges to intergenerational relationships, especially when linked to the increasing economic and ecological challenges facing the next generations of human beings.”

Whitehouse’s research is co-published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The article is currently available for free online access on the journal’s website. Click here to download a PDF or text version. For more information about the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, and to view the latest table of contents, visit

The Journal of Intergenerational Relationships is the forum for scholars, practitioners, policy makers, educators, and advocates to stay abreast of the latest intergenerational research, practice methods and policy initiatives. This is the only journal focusing on the intergenerational field integrating practical, theoretical, empirical, familial, and policy perspectives.

Full bibliographic information The Challenges of Cognitive Aging: Integrating Approaches from Neuroscience to Intergenerational Relationships
Peter Whitehouse MD Ph
Journal of Intergenerational Relationships
Volume 11, Issue 2, 2013
DOI: 10.1080/15350770.2013.782740

The Benefits Of Sexual Activity In Later Life

01 July 2013 British Psychological Society (BPS)


Society should have a more favorable attitude towards sexual activity in older people because of the many benefits it brings.


That is the message of a paper being presented  Friday, 5 July 2013, by Dr David Weeks, a consultant clinical psychologist and former Head of Old Age Psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Dr Weeks will be addressing the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Faculty of the Psychology of Older People in Colchester.


In his paper, Dr Weeks will make clear the relevance of exploratory research on people with eccentric behaviours and personality, and of research on people who look and feel significantly younger than their chronological age, to the health, longevity and especially the sex lives of the general population.


Seniors In BedDrawing on his 38 years of clinical practice and research, he will argue that the key ingredients for looking younger are staying active and maintaining a good sex life.


Dr Weeks says: “When people contemplate ageing their thinking is riven with negative stereotypes and ageist myths – those who are most prejudiced against older people know them least. And misconceptions of this kind generate irrational prohibitive feelings, making sexual experiences less enjoyable for both partners within a relationship.


“Yet the quality of sexual expression maintained in older adults is a predictor of good general health and well-being. In a Welsh heart disease study from 1997, the mortality risk was 50 per cent lower in the group of men with high orgasmic frequency (twice a week or more) than in the group with low frequency.


“Sexual satisfaction is a major contributor to quality of life, ranking at least as high as spiritual or religious commitment and other morale factors, so more positive attitudes towards mature sex should be vigorously promoted.


“Sexuality is not the prerogative of younger people and nor should it be.”

Older Adults May Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Mobility Difficulties

Older adults who don’t get enough vitamin D may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability, according to new research published online in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Vitamin D“This is one of the first studies to look at the association of vitamin D and the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults,” said lead author Denise Houston, PhD, RD, nutrition epidemiologist in the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology.

The study analyzed the association between vitamin D and onset of mobility limitation and disability over six years of follow-up using data from the National Institute on Aging’s Health, Aging and Body Composition study.Mobility limitation and disability are defined as any difficulty or inability to walk several blocks or climb a flight of stairs, respectively.

Of the 3,075 community-dwelling black and white men and women aged 70-79 years who were enrolled, data from 2,099 participants was used for the study. Eligible participants reported no difficulty walking .25-mile, climbing 10 steps or performing basic, daily living activities, and were free of life-threatening illness. Vitamin D levels were measured in the blood at the beginning of the study. Occurrence of mobility limitation and disability during follow-up was assessed during annual clinic visits alternating with telephone interviews every six months over six years.

“We observed about a 30 percent increased risk of mobility limitations for those older adults who had low levels of vitamin D, and almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability,” Houston said.

Houston continued that vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function, so it is plausible that low levels of the vitamin could result in the onset of decreased lower muscle strength and physical performance. Vitamin D may also indirectly affect physical function as low vitamin D levels have also been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and lung disease-conditions that are frequent causes of decline in physical function Houston said people get vitamin D when it is naturally produced in the skin by sun exposure, by eating foods with vitamin D, such as fortified milk, juice and cereals, and by taking vitamin D supplements.

“About one-third of older adults have low vitamin D levels,” she said. “It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone and older adults, who may not spend much time outdoors, may need to take a vitamin D supplement.”

Current recommendations call for people over age 70 to get 800 international units of vitamin D daily in their diet or supplements. Houston pointed out that current dietary recommendations are based solely on vitamin D’s effects on bone health.

“Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other health conditions,” she said.”However, clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels through diet or supplements has an effect on physical function.”


Lifelong Exercise Can Help Maintain Speed, Fitness As You Age

Senior Fitness Beyond Expectations
It’s inevitable: As you get older, you slow down. A 40-year-old runs more slowly than a 20-year-old. A 70-year-old can’t be expected to keep up with a 50-year-old on a bike or a hike. It’s only natural. Right?  Well, not so fast.

Our preconceptions about what’s possible are changing.

While you can’t defy aging’s impact on your speed and fitness forever, research shows that you can push back, hard.
You can markedly slow your decline and postpone tumbling off the fitness cliff that some people encounter in old age. And the gains may transfer from athletics to the tasks of daily life.

The tonic, you won’t be surprised to learn, is regular, lifelong exercise to condition your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems.

At least one study suggests the amounts, types and frequency of the workouts necessary to maintain speed and fitness. You’ll benefit from regular, several-times-a-week exercise whenever you start, but beginning early in life and sticking with a program appears to hold the greatest value.

When Scott Trappe, director of the human performance laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and colleagues tested nine elite, lifelong athletes older than 80, they found their cardiovascular fitness to be “comparable to non-endurance-trained men 40 years younger.

” The level of conditioning of these athletes — all had been top-flight cross-country skiers, and one had been an Olympic champion — was “associated with lower risk for disability and mortality,” according to Trappe’s 2012 paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

A major reason for that is the strength of their well-conditioned hearts. “Once you get to late middle age, 45 to 60, the heart starts to shrink and stiffen,” said Benjamin Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. “And that makes it less able to expand when you start pumping blood back to it, and therefore you can’t send as much volume” to the muscles. “People who have trained their whole lives, they can prevent that from happening,” he said.

“Once you get to late middle age, 45 to 60, the heart starts to shrink and stiffen, that makes it less able to expand when you start pumping blood back to it, and therefore you can’t send as much volume to the muscles. People who have trained their whole lives, they can prevent that from happening”

Slowing A Decline In Fitness

Senior Pool WorkoutDee Nelson of Gaithersburg, 69, started racing at age 34 and ran her first Cherry Blossom 10-miler in 76:55 in 1985. Ten years later, she ran the same race in 73:32, according to meticulous records she has kept of the 1,490 road races she has run. She has begun to slow in recent years but has stayed ahead of most of her peers. She finished the 2013 Cherry Blossom April 7 in 87:11, good enough for third place in her age group.

“I pretty much run to exhaustion, but I don’t feel any pain,” Nelson said. “My health is the most important thing I have, and I think that’s why I’ve been running all these years.”

Nelson may be a genetic outlier — in 2009, she set an age-group record in the gold standard fitness test at Dallas’s Cooper Clinic — but she also has followed a training regimen developed by the clinic’s founder, Kenneth Cooper, that emphasizes the preventive power of fitness.

Four or five workouts a week — one of them speedwork, one of them a long, slow distance run — appears to provide the optimal defense against declining speed and cardiac strength, Levine said. (Most experts also recommend two weekly strength training sessions to maintain muscle and bone fitness, but Levine did not study that.)

Move It or Lose It seems to be the best advice. Moving it earlier and regularly is the solution.

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