If you’re finding it harder to open jars and heavy doors, you’re not alone. After age 40, the average woman loses up to three pounds of muscle — and 10 percent of her strength — every decade. Fortunately, the condition (which doctors call sarcopenia) isn’t inevitable, and preventing it can single-handedly cut your risk of diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis in half.
What is sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is the medical term for the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass quality and strength associated with getting older. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the loss of muscle mass and strength — which in turn affects balance, gait, and overall ability to perform tasks of daily living — are hallmark signs of this disease. There are ways you can slow the aging process specifically in relation to loss of muscle mass and strength. Here are a few to get you started.
Protect your muscle mass with protein.
Consuming 60 g. of protein daily cuts your risk of muscle shrinkage 40 percent, say Creighton University researchers. Top sources: Poultry, meat and seafood (at least 20 g. of protein per 3 oz. serving), tofu (20 g. per 1/2 cup), cottage cheese (20 g. per cup), low-fat yogurt (14 g. per cup), eggs (6 g. each) and Cheddar cheese (7 g. per oz.).
Stop shrinkage with sunshine.
Spending 20 minutes outdoors daily can cut your risk of muscle shrinkage by 25 percent. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces calcifediol, a form of vitamin D that helps produce muscle-building enzymes, Australian research shows. And if you’re the indoor type, supplement the sun with 3,000 IU daily of vitamin D-3, instead. Note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.
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Build new muscle with tea.
Drinking 36 oz. of tea daily (black, green or white) can help you build 14 percent more muscle tissue in two months, reveals West Virginia University research. “Tea contains polyphenols, compounds that reduce muscle inflammation,” explains Leslie Shen, Ph.D., a pathologist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “And once inflammation levels drop, your body is able to produce new muscle fibers.”
Build muscle strength with green tomatoes.
As odd as it sounds, eating one cup of green tomatoes, twice weekly, can help tone your muscles. University of Iowa scientists recently discovered a green tomato compound (tomatidine) that helps muscles grow healthier and stronger.
TIP: Fried green tomatoes are a Southern treat, but you’ll also love them cut in half, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and broiled, cut side up. Or serve them raw, chopped, with red tomatoes, onions, basil and vinaigrette.
Build strength with easy workouts.
A quick way to reverse sarcopenia? Fitting in 30 minutes of strength training, twice weekly, experts say. Doing a few lunges, biceps curls, pushups (from your knees) and crunches could increase your muscle mass and strength 48 percent in eight weeks.