Functional consequences of sarcopenia and dynapenia in the elderly

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The economic burden due to the sequela of sarcopenia (muscle wasting in the elderly) are staggering and rank similarly to the costs associated with osteoporotic fractures. In this article, we discuss the societal burden and determinants of the loss of physical function with advancing age, the physiologic mechanisms underlying dynapenia (muscle weakness in the elderly), and provide perspectives on related critical issues to be addressed.

Recent findings

Recent epidemiological findings from longitudinal aging studies suggest that dynapenia is highly associated with both mortality and physical disability even when adjusting for sarcopenia indicating that sarcopenia may be secondary to the effects of dynapenia. These findings are consistent with the physiologic underpinnings of muscle strength, as recent evidence demonstrates that alterations in muscle quantity, contractile quality and neural activation all collectively contribute to dynapenia.

Summary

Although muscle mass is essential for regulation of whole body metabolic balance, overall neuromuscular function seems to be a critical factor for maintaining muscle strength and physical independence in the elderly. The relative contribution of physiologic factors contributing to muscle weakness are not fully understood and further research is needed to better elucidate these mechanisms between muscle groups and across populations.

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