It’s no surprise that the older you get, the more muscle you lose. Although this may be true, you can still work to slow down muscle loss to remain strong and healthy. Unfortunately, for some people, the rate at which they lose muscle is far quicker than others. This poses the question: what is really behind muscle loss as we age?
The culprit is our genes, and some of us are genetically predisposed to losing muscle at a faster rate than others.
Muscle loss in aging, known as sarcopenia, is often a result of lower levels of growth hormones, like testosterone, along with difficulties absorbing essential nutrients that help to build and maintain muscle.
Muscle mass begins to decline around the age of 30, with men losing more muscle than women. But in those who are genetically predisposed to muscle loss, this can occur earlier on and faster.
Chief clinical officer at Vitagene, Julie Chen, explained, “There are genes that look at if, for example, you naturally have lower baseline subcutaneous fat volume and if you’ve gained more skeletal muscle volume after resistance training.” BMP2 genes are associated with building and retaining muscle and can explain why some people have higher muscle mass and lower fat and lose muscle mass at a slower rate.
A 2015 European study identified 21 different genetic variations that influenced body mass and muscle loss. Chen continued, “So there are locations in our genetic sequence that do indicate whether we could have a better ability to have lean body mass, whether we can gain more lean body mass after resistance training or not.”
“We’ve come so far, absolutely, but there’s still so much more work to go, and we have to find more and more data as to how different gene variations work with each other to help lean body mass,” said Chen.
So, how are you to know whether you are genetically predisposed to lose muscle mass quicker or not? Well, you can have your genes checked, which can tell you if you are capable of developing lean muscle mass through exercise or not. And the earlier you do this, the earlier you can start exercising to prevent sarcopenia.
Even if you are predisposed to quicker muscle loss, don’t lose hope. By altering different areas of your lifestyle, such as sleeping well and eating a healthy diet, you can still maintain muscle. All of us should be exercising regularly, regardless of our genes, as it is associated with several health benefits from improved mood and cognitive health to greater cardiovascular health and stronger muscles.