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Tackling Australia's future health problems: developing strategies to combat sarcopenia − age-related muscle wasting and weakness

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Some of the most serious consequences of ageing are its effects on skeletal muscle structure and function. Ageing is associated with a progressive loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), a slowing of movement, and a decline in strength; factors that increase the risk of injury from sudden falls and a reliance on the frail elderly for assistance in accomplishing even the most basic tasks required for independent living. From a public health perspective, sarcopenia has widespread clinical implications. As the proportion of older persons in the popu­lation continues to grow, sarcopenia will have a dramatic impact on the lives of Australians and place increasing demands on health care. Although it is generally agreed that the deleterious effects of ageing on skeletal muscle are inevitable, debate exists as to whether these intrinsic changes are immutable or reversible. There is clearly a profound need for therapeutic strategies that can slow the effects of ageing on muscle function, and restore muscle size and strength in the frail elderly so that their quality of life can be maintained or improved. Physical activity plays an important role in slowing the effects of ageing, but exercise alone will not prevent the gradual decline in skeletal muscle function. Other factors, such as age-related changes in circulating levels of muscle anabolic hormones and growth factors, must also be considered when developing strategies to combat sarcopenia. Much research is needed to test the safety and efficacy of these exciting experimental strategies before they can be recommended for clinical application. (Intern Med J 2004; 34: 294−296)
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Keywords: ageing; exercise; skeletal muscle; ­anabolic agents; ­sarcopenia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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