Lose muscle strength is a common occurrence as a person grows older. At times, this weakness becomes so severe that it can impact your ability to live a quality life and even normal day-to day chores become a pain. In medical terms, this is called sarcopenia. Almost 10 per cent people over the age of 50 experience this condition. Sarcopenia can also increase the risk of untimely death significantly. Experts are yet to come to a consensus as to what causes this condition. Now a new large scale genetic analysis has found some biological mechanisms that contribute to making people more susceptible to muscle weakness in later life. This analysis has found that diseases like osteoarthritis and diabetes may also play a large role in this susceptibility. Nature Communications published this study.

Experts identify 15 areas of genome linked to muscle weakness

An international team led by researchers at the University of Exeter conducted a genetic analysis of over 250,000 people aged over the age of 60 from UK Biobank and 21 other cohorts. They looked at handgrip strength, using thresholds of loss of muscle function derived from international definitions of sarcopenia. The team of researchers, including collaborators from the USA and the Netherlands, then conducted a genetic analysis. On doing this, they found specific biological mechanisms push some people towards sarcopenia. At the same time, they saw that it these same biological mechanisms also protected others. Researchers identified 15 areas of the genome, or loci, associated with muscle weakness, including 12 loci not implicated in previous analyses of continuous measures of grip strength. Also Read – Leg weakness: Causes and home remedies to strengthen weak legs

Inflammation, blood in red blood cells may be to blame

Biomarkers in the blood including red blood cells and inflammation may also share causal pathways with sarcopenia. Together, these results highlight specific areas for intervention or for identifying those at most risk. Researchers saw that the strongest associations were close to regions of the genome regulating the immune system, and growth and development of the musclo-skeletal system. However, they also discovered associations with regions not previously known to be linked to musclo-skeletal traits.

Diabetes, osteoarthritis greatly contribute to sarcopenia

Researchers found that their analysis of muscle weakness in older people shared common genetic pathways with metabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, and auto-immune conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In subgroups of people with increased risk of these conditions, sarcopenia may be a key outcome to look out for and prevent. They are hopeful that by understanding the genetic contributions to muscle weakness with age, they will be able to highlight possible therapeutic interventions earlier in life, which would lead to a happier and healthier old age.

What you can do

It is a fact that ageing is a common factor of sarcopenia. But certain habits and lifestyle factors can make things worse. You can bring down your risk considerably by making changes in your lifestyle.

  • Be active. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. This will lower your risk of sarcopenia significantly.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of sarcopenia. Have at least 30 gm of protein at each meal.
  • Avoid stress. This is a leading cause of many chronic health conditions that can lead to muscle weakness.

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This post first appeared on The Health Site

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