AARP survey focuses on muscle loss

If you’re an AARP member, you’re probably in good health, but there’s also a fair chance you’ve noticed some muscle loss, according to a study in which the aging advocacy group was a partner.

An article in the May issue of the AARP Bulletin explains the results of a survey of 1,480 individuals age 50 or older who are AARP members. Slightly more than half the respondents, 51 percent, reported they were in ”excellent or very good health,” and 47 percent identified as in ”fair or good health.”

That sounds like a pretty healthy group, based on their opinions, which makes sense considering AARP members generally have above-average income and education. As to how often they exercise, 56 percent said they did so at least three times a week and 74 percent at least once weekly.

The survey was focused primarily on potential muscle loss, however, as AARP’s partner in the survey was Abbott, the maker of products such as Ensure designed to add protein to an older person’s diet.

Though people generally start to lose muscle mass in their 40s and do so at an increasing rate as they age, the respondents were far more likely to do cardio-related exercise than focus on rebuilding muscles by such means as weights, yoga and stretching.

The survey found 28 percent of respondents had noticed some muscle loss. Such experiences are more common after a serious health condition, especially those that require hospitalization.

Proper nutrition assists exercise in maintaining and restoring muscle, and the study said at minimum that means taking in 53 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound adult and 63 grams for a 180-pound adult. Older adults actually should get more though, the report said, because as the body ages it absorbs and stores nutrients like protein less efficiently compared to younger years.

Among the best foods to provide needed protein, the study noted, are fish (especially cod, salmon or tuna), chicken, cottage cheese and black beans.

Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255.


Expert Q&A