Losing muscle mass and strength as we age is called Sarcopenia, and is a normal part of ageing. Although, this can have a significant but under-appreciated impact on type 2 diabetes self management & control.
How does ageing affect muscles?
Ageing causes a reduction in muscle mass, size and volume, this is known as muscle atrophy. Additionally, fatty deposits infiltrating muscles and decreasing their quality and capability is another component of ageing. Lastly, within our muscles there are cells known as mitochondria which are responsible for producing the energy needed for function. However, as we age these cells reduce their capability and become less effective at producing and providing energy for our muscles to work optimally.
How does sarcopenia relate to type 2 diabetes?
Skeletal muscles (the ones that help us move around) are the largest insulin-sensitive tissues in the body, playing an extremely important role in soaking up excess glucose from the blood stream. When you exercise, your muscles require more energy to work efficiently. Glucose within the blood provides this vital energy source for the body, and fuels your muscles during exercise. The more muscle we have, the more excess glucose we can get rid of from the blood stream through exercise. You may have heard the expression that our muscles act like glucose mops.
The good news is that while sarcopenia can be part of the normal ageing process, these declines can be slowed and fought against.
Strategies to slow down Sarcopenia
- Exercise & move more. As you age it is important to keep moving and exercising. Where possible, movement should be lifelong as with disuse or inactivity, muscle tissue begins to break down, and muscle fibre’s may decrease in size and number.
- Build more skeletal muscle. Using a range of strategies, you can increase the size or volume of skeletal muscle fibres, specifically the enlargement of individual muscle cells. You are essentially creating bigger mops. Your exercise physiologist & physiotherapist can support you with a tailored progressive resistance training program that aims to increase the size of your mops!
- Maintain and prevent further loss of current skeletal muscle. You can maintain your skeletal muscle in a range of ways. A dietician can ensure you have adequate nutrition, specifically, adequate protein intake to provide the essential ingredients for muscle maintenance and development. After stressing your muscles through exercising, getting quality rest is critical to allow muscle tissue to recover and grow. If you are having trouble sleeping, then this is something that you could discuss with a psychologist. You can also discuss spacing your training sessions out appropriately to allow for adequate recovery time with your exercise physiologist.
Sarcopenia: a potential cause and consequence of type 2 diabetes in Australia’s ageing population?