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November 30, 2009, last updated October 22, 2015

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Staff of CollectiveWizdom


We lose muscle as we age. Everybody knows that. All of us lose
about 1% of muscle mass for every decade past age 30. But did
you know that muscle loss makes you more vulnerable to
disease?  Muscle actually acts as an armour against death from
many diseases, several research studies have found.

A 2006 study from the University of Texas Medical Branch,
Department of Surgery and  Shriners Burn Hospital, found that
muscle plays a key role in the prevention of numerous common
chronic diseases and conditions.

How? Muscles are not simply dense tissue. Muscles are actually
your body's storage tanks for protein.  They hold 85 to 90% of all
the protein you have in your body. In essence, whenever your
body has a need for more protein --amino acids--it sends out a
signal to the storage tank and the storage tank responds by
shipping out protein to wherever it is needed.

When you are sick or stressed, your body starts the healing by
using the amino acid building blocks of protein. In fact, you
cannot heal without these amino acid protein building blocks.

Researchers studying the chances of survival from severe burns,
starvation, AIDS and conditions of severe stress have made a
startling discovery. Your chances of survival are directly linked to
how much muscle mass you have. This is worth repeating.

The amount of muscle mass you have is the single most
important determinant of how long you will live.

So-called natural "thinning out" or wasting of muscle as we age is
not a benign process. It is the beginning of death. Loss of that
critical muscle mass leaves you completely vulnerable to disease
because it depletes your body's reservoir of the amino acids it
needs to heal. Scientists now understand that this process of
thinning out is part of a decades long process of
frailty that starts
in your 50's.

Here are examples of how muscle actually helps to prolong your
life, based on university research studies:




























1.
Muscle Increases Survival from Burn.

A 2002 study led by Drs. Biolo, Fleming and Nguyen from the
University of Texas found that , when you are severely burned,
your body's demand for protein increases on average by 83%.  

However, the doctors were surprised to discover that feeding you
extra protein intravenously is ineffective in supplying your body's
increased demands. Only the breakdown of muscle mass is
effective in supplying the needed protein. Therefore, if you have
less muscle than you need before you are burned, nothing the
doctors can feed you while you are in the hospital will make up the
deficiency in amino acids. Your body's healing relies almost
exclusively on drawing down on the amino acid reserves in your
muscle mass.

2.
Muscle Increases Survival from Stress and Starvation.

During World War II,  Jewish doctors in the Warsaw ghetto
studied the chances of survival from starvation and discovered
that starvation from death only occurs when your muscle protein
drops too low to maintain an adequate supply of  gluconeogenic
precursors needed for healing.

A separate study in 1950 published by the University of Minnesota
found that, in all cases of human starvation, death is actually
caused by loss of muscle mass.

3.
Muscle Even Increases Survival Rate from AIDs.

Seriously ill patients from AIDs live longer if they have more
muscle mass. This observation has been made by several studies
including a 2006 study from the University of South Carolina,
Department of Exercise Science.

Thinning Out Is a Cause for Alarm

Many of us notice that we begin to thin out as we age. We've all
seen middle-aged men with those skinny legs and arms but with
pot guts. Or women with skinny thighs and pot guts. Many of us
wrongly assume that this process is benign or, perhaps even a
good development since we have always been taught that we
should watch our weight. But losing this muscle is a cause for
alarm. If you start to notice muscle loss, it is a cause for alarm. If
you notice that your husband or wife's legs have started to thin
out, it is a cause for alarm. This is the beginning of a condition
known as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the wasting away of muscle
mass as we age. Unfortunately, once sarcopenia progresses
beyond a certain point, it will not be possible to regain this muscle
mass by lifting weight.

You will have passed the point of no return.

From that point, you literally can start to set your clock on a
countdown to death. For, even if you "wake up" and start
exercising furiously and eating perfectly, after sarcopenia
progresses too far, there literally is nothing you can do.

Take a look at yourself. Take a look at your spouse. Over the years
have those legs gotten thin and spindly while your stomach has
gotten progressively larger? You are headed in the wrong
direction. In our youth, we had relatively powerful thighs and
arms.  How can you get those arms and thighs back? Follow a
regular exercise regime that emphasizes weight lifting--squats,
lunges and overhead presses. These type of exercises will not only
increase your muscle mass which will bulk up those spindly legs
and arms but will also reduce the fat around your abdomen.

Update:

New research has found that by just testing your hand grip,
doctors can have a pretty good idea of your overall muscle
strength. In a population of frail elderly, doctors have found that
these elderly only have about 40% of the hand grip strength their
healthier peers. So, when you're exercising, don't neglect your
upper body overall and your hand strength in particular. (Read
more about why your
hand grip tells a lot about your longevity
and overall health.)



































Find out more tips to improve  your skin and general health:
Exercise To Increase Muscle Mass and Boost Metabolism
/ Exercise
Center /Why Your Hand Grip Foretells How Long You'll Live  
Bowel Movements Indicate Your Overall Health  /Ideal Breakfast
for Losing Weight/ Bowel Color-What It Means / Sugar - the
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