Singapore's Aging Population Faces Rising Threat from Sarcopenia

A recent decade-long research study has revealed that the loss of muscle and strength, a condition known as sarcopenia, associated with aging could pose significant challenges for the healthcare sector. The study, which monitored 300 individuals, found that muscle deterioration contributes to frailty, affecting balance, mobility, and the overall ability to carry out everyday tasks. This issue is particularly pertinent as it is projected that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be over the age of 65.

The longitudinal study conducted by Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing (IGA) discovered that the prevalence of sarcopenia in Singapore ranged from 13% to 25%, compared with 5.5% to 25.7% for Asia as a whole. While sarcopenia may not be as widely recognized as dementia in older people, IGA director Lim Wee Shiong, the lead researcher of the study, emphasized the importance of raising awareness about this condition and the preventive measures that can be taken to delay its onset.

The study, GeriLABS, utilized screening and assessment tools to detect sarcopenia in its early stages and identify those at risk of adverse outcomes such as frailty. Timely and effective interventions could then be administered. Associate Professor Lim pointed out that disorders of the muscle and bones are the primary cause of years that people in Singapore live with disability. These disorders increase the number of falls and result in a low quality of life, reduced physical activity, and loss of independence in daily living.

Frailty, an age-related decline that increases a person’s vulnerability to adverse health outcomes and falls, is expected to grow significantly among older people within the community, from 5% to 6% now to 27% by 2030. The research has helped validate screening and assessment tools to detect sarcopenia and unravel clinical and physiological markers of the condition. This, in turn, allows for the prediction of an individual’s risk of frailty and functional decline.

The study utilizes scans such as a bone density test called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and bioelectrical impedance, which calculates muscle mass by running electric current flows through the body. Simultaneously, muscle strength is measured by the strength of the patient’s hand grip using a hand dynamometer.

Interestingly, loss of muscle mass can occur even in overweight individuals who do not appear to be losing bulk. Older individuals suffering from such obese sarcopenia, more commonly known as “fat-frail”, actually have very low muscle mass. The issue, as pointed out by TTSH-IGA geriatrician Lim Jun Pei, is that many of those suffering from obese sarcopenia often do not recognize the problem in themselves because they still appear large and not visibly wasting away.

For those over the age of 60 and dealing with sarcopenic obesity, the solution is not to depend on motorised personal mobility devices but to engage in regular exercise. This can be achieved through the help of a Personal Trainer service or by joining fitness classes at the best Mackay gym. Prof Lim Wee Shiong recommended a combination of consuming more protein, walking, and doing resistance exercise (strength training). He cautioned that losing weight through dieting could simply mean losing more muscle mass.

In conclusion, sarcopenia is a serious health issue that needs to be recognized and addressed. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help prevent or delay its onset. For those seeking help in maintaining fitness as they age, consider looking up 'Personal trainer near me' or 'Women's fitness classes Mackay' for professional guidance.