Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slow Aging by Losing Fat

Age management medicine is a new specialty that looks specifically at the aging process and considers how to slow aging and how to make it proceed more smoothly. Aging is normally associated with numerous discomforts and difficulties that people dread and wish to avoid if at all possible as the years tick by. As scientists explore the possibility of managing diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis more effectively, they are finding some exciting new information about the body and what may actually be the cause of a lot of discomforts and diseases associated with aging. Chronic inflammation at the cellular and molecular level appears to play an important role in the aging process and in creating and facilitating the development of a number of diseases. Scientists and medical professionals are excited about this common link that appears to be so important in age-related disorders and health issues because controlling inflammation may mean controlling the aging process and a number of the diseases associated with it.

Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection as well as injury. Inflammation, in the case of infection or injury is actually positive and healthy. Unfortunately, as the body ages, or under certain conditions when people are younger, the inflammatory response doesn't end when the infection does. Rather, the inflammation becomes chronic and on-going. Chronic, ongoing inflammation can lead to a whole array of different health problems from depression to generalized weakness and fatigue as well as autoimmune diseases like those mentioned above.

Inflammation is mediated by certain substances in the body like cytokines or C-reactive protein. Tissues exposed to these substances become inflamed. Unfortunately, fat cells actually produce cytokines. That means that if you have more fat cells in the body, you have more cytokines being produced and thus more inflammation. Because inflammation has been associated with aging, this means that being overweight can actually cause you to age faster.

Controlling the inflammation process is important if you want to control heart disease or diabetes or any other disease that is correlated with inflammation. Losing weight, particularly fat from the body can have an impact on the inflammatory response. Some individuals maintain a low calorie restrictive diet that is high in nutrients and micronutrients to lower the inflammatory response in the body. This has been shown to get certain disease states under control as well as slow the aging process. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has also been utilized to help reduce the inflammatory response in promising ways. Hormone therapy helps the body balance inflammation, neither preventing inflammation entirely nor allowing it to go unchecked in the body to create on-going problems. Balanced hormones that can be achieved through hormone treatments can make it easier for individuals to lose fat, thereby slowing the aging process and the inflammatory response in the body.

Though losing weight, specifically fat, is a goal for a lot of people right now, the evidence is growing to support another reason why weight loss is beneficial for you. If you're experiencing the classic signs of aging, it appears that getting rid of some extra fat stores in the body can diminish the momentum of the aging process considerably. Whether you use hormones, a calorie restriction diet, or other methods to get your weight under control and lose fat stores, your health will likely improve considerably from your efforts and the progress of time will impact the way you look and feel less profoundly.

Sarcopenia: Are You Wasting Away?

If you are past the age of twenty-five, you are probably shrinking. Don't celebrate yet. You are not losing weight; you are losing muscle. On average we lose 18% of our muscle mass between the ages of twenty and fifty and an additional 20% between the ages of fifty and eighty.(1) Unfortunately, this does not lead to weight loss. We gain about one pound of fat and lose about a half a pound of muscle between the ages of thirty and sixty.(2) In other words, your increased girth is simply increased fat. Sarcopenia is the term used for the loss of muscle as a result of aging.

Even if your weight remains the same, you may still be overweight or even obese. If you still weigh the same but you lost twenty percent of your muscle mass, guess what happened to the weight? That's right! It turned to fat. Sarcopenic obesity is the term used for people who are not obese by the BMI index but whose body fat percentage makes them overweight or obese.

Why should I care?

The consequences of sarcopenia are substantial. Loss of strength leads to falls, disability, limitations on mobility and fractures. It has been linked to a loss of energy and a decline in cognition. It is also linked to increased mortality.(3) In other words, you risk becoming dysfunctional and a burden unless you find a way to limit your loss in strength and power.

What causes sarcopenia?

While the consequences of sarcopenia are great, the causes of it are still being discovered. However, a few culprits have come to the forefront.

* A decrease in strength may come as a result of a loss of type 2 muscle fibers and a decline in muscle motor units.
* A decline in hormones or the body's response to them may contribute to it.
* Oxidative stress and inflammation may play a role in sarcopenia.
* Finally, a decline in protein synthesis and an increase in protein breakdown may play a role.

Avoiding Sarcopenia - What to do?

All is not lost. You can stop and even reverse the process with a few lifestyle modifications.

1. Exercise limits decline. More specifically, resistance training increases muscle strength, power and mass. Resistance training has been shown to increase muscle mass by over eleven percent and strength by over one hundred percent. Results have been shown in as little as 2 thirty minute sessions a week.(1)

2. Of course, just because you need resistance exercises does not mean you should leave out aerobic ones. Aerobic exercise improves endurance, cardiovascular fitness and reduces body fat. And while it will not increase power, it may increase muscle fibers and mitochondrial volume.

3. Make sure you get enough protein. The recommended amount of protein is.35 grams per pound of weight a day. If you exercise, you should eat more. Don't eat it all in one meal but break it up into twenty-five to thirty grams of high quality protein per meal. Eating protein with the amino acid leucine such as soybeans, beef, fish and beans may be particularly beneficial.(2)

4. Eat foods or supplements with creatine. Creatine may help build muscle through its role in cellular and protein metabolism. It also increases phosphocreatine levels which appear to help increase the intensity of workouts. Beef and other meats are the primary source of creatine in the diet so vegetarians may need to supplement it.

5. Eat foods high in antioxidants. Since oxidative stress may be a part of sarcopenia, reducing it should help limit the decline. Supplements and foods with antioxidants such as beans, berries, apples, and pecans may aid in limiting oxidative stress which will help limit muscle loss.

6. Take a Vitamin D supplement. It aids in metabolism and Vitamin D receptors located on the muscles help with protein synthesis.

7. Consider hormone replacement therapy. Hormones such as growth hormones and bio-identical testosterone may aid in increasing muscle mass and strength. Of course, you should consult a medical professional who is qualified in anti-aging medicine before partaking in it.

You are getting older. Don't let the aging process turn you from an active and productive person to a dysfunctional one. Work to avoid or at least limit sarcopenia and its detrimental consequences. Your future children or grandchildren will thank you for it.