New guidelines to help diagnose and treat muscle loss in elderly

A new set of international guidelines aims to improve the clinical treatment of muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, a common condition in older adults that severely impacts quality of life and increases the risk of falls. 

Man standing on a walking track holding two dumbells in each hand

Have you heard of sarcopenia?  

Don’t let the name scare you off – it’s one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. 

Deemed ‘osteoporosis of our muscles’, the condition causes significant loss of muscle mass, strength and function, which severely impacts the quality of life of older adults and increases their risk of falls. Despite its impact on lives, it may come as a surprise that sarcopenia is often overlooked due to confusion over how to diagnose and treat the condition. 

In a world first project led by researchers from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University, the Australian and New Zealand Society for Sarcopenia and Frailty Research has created a new set of international guidelines designed to improve the clinical management of sarcopenia. The set of 17 guidelines confirm the preferred method of diagnosis, as well as the importance of exercise and nutrition for prevention and treatment. 

Senior author, IPAN’s Associate Professor David Scott said the new guidelines incorporated the views of health professionals and consumers, meaning they were more likely to be implemented in the real world.   

“Previous guidelines were generally inconsistent and only included the opinion of academic experts, rather than the many different health experts who manage sarcopenia in the clinic, or people who live with the consequences of sarcopenia,” he said. 

Associate Professor Scott also highlighted the importance of regular physical activity and healthy eating at all ages as the best way to prevent the onset of sarcopenia in later life.  

“Older adults diagnosed with sarcopenia should be referred to accredited professionals, such as exercise physiologists and dietitians,” he said. 

“Exercise physiologists can help adults with sarcopenia to safely engage in resistance exercise, while dietitians can ensure their diet is adequate, particularly regarding protein intake.  

“These guidelines will ensure the proper management of those with or at risk of sarcopenia to improve their muscle health and independence, so that they can continue to enjoy meaningful lives in older age,” he said.