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, or sarcopenia, a common condition in older adults that severely impacts quality of life and increases the risk of falls.

In a world first project led by Deakin University, the set of 17 guidelines confirm the preferred method of diagnosis and importance of exercise and nutrition for prevention and treatment.

Lead author Associate Professor David Scott from Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) said sarcopenia resulted in a highly debilitating loss of muscle mass and strength but was often overlooked in health care settings because of confusion over how to diagnose and treat the condition.

“Previous guidelines have been inconsistent and have only included the opinion of academic experts, rather than the many different health experts who manage sarcopenia in the clinic, or the consumers who live with the consequences of sarcopenia,” Associate Professor Scott said.

“These new guidelines incorporate opinions and preferences of health professionals and consumers, which means they are more likely to be implemented in the real world.”

Associate Professor Scott said that experts overwhelmingly recommended that regular physical activity and healthy eating at all ages was the best way to prevent onset of sarcopenia in later life.

“Similarly, older adults diagnosed with sarcopenia should be referred to accredited professionals (e.g. exercise physiologists and dietitians) to engage in resistance exercise and ensure their diet is adequate, particularly in regards to protein intakes, in order to improve their muscle health and independence,” Associate Professor Scott said.

Professor Julie Pasco from Deakin’s Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT) said people living with sarcopenia were often unable to live independently, take part in work and other activities or enjoy time with friends and family.

“These guidelines will help health professionals identify people with or at risk of sarcopenia and ensure that they are properly treated so that they can continue to enjoy meaningful lives in older age.”

– Professor Julie Pasco