Twenty percent of people who fall and break a hip after the age of 50 die within a year.
Depending on your age, that statistic may be sobering or downright terrifying.
Every single year 2.5 million seniors end up in the emergency room from a fall. In fact 1 in 3 older folks end up taking a tumble, according to the CDC.
And falls are the leading cause of death from an injury in older Americans.
In other words, falls are no joke. Especially for those in their Golden Years.
But few of us give much thought to why we start to fall more often as we get older. We tend to think of it as just a part of “getting old.”
But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be.
We lose muscle mass as we age
One of the biggest reasons we fall when we reach our senior years is the loss of muscle mass and muscle quality that happens as we age. That muscle loss is spread out over the years, of course, which means it can be easy to miss while it’s happening.
But it’s significant, and depending on how much we lose it can mean the difference between staying vibrant and independent right up to the very end, or living out our days in a nursing home feeling like a burden to our loved ones.
Wondering just how much muscle loss we’re talking about here?
It’s actually kind of shocking.
This chart, which compiles data on muscle fiber loss from a number of different studies, will give you can idea. In these studies it ranged anywhere from 19 percent up to a stunning 52 percent!
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||M/F||60-90+||-52%|
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||M||22-65||-25%|
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||M/f||65-89||-24%|
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||M||20-70||-19%|
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||F||20-70||-45%|
|vastus lateralis – upper leg||M||19-86||-35%|
|tibialis ant – lower leg||M/F||23-77||-30%|
But don’t feel discouraged.
Remember, I said earlier that we DON’T have to simply resign ourselves to falls being a part of getting older. And that’s because there is something we can do to help build up our muscle mass and recapture those “teenage muscles” of our youth.
Rebuild “teenage muscles” with protein
According to research done by Elena Volpi, MD, PhD. younger adults only need 15 to 20 grams of protein per meal to build muscle mass. But older folks, on the other hand, need to pack in close to 30 grams every meal to store up any significant amount of protein.
That means a whole lot of seniors are falling way short of what they need.
Older adults average around 12 grams of protein for breakfast, another 15 at lunch and 32 at dinner. And missing out on around 30 grams a day means you’re raising your risk for falls, fractures, loss of independence and, yes, even death.
Oh, and fall prevention isn’t the only benefit building muscle mass brings to the table. More muscles make bouncing back from infections and even surgeries far easier.
Stay slim, trim & healthy with more muscle
Plus raising your muscle mass means you naturally burn more calories.
In fact, for every pound of muscle you put on you’ll burn an extra 40 calories a day with zero extra effort on your part. That means if you were to do everything exactly the same this year as last year except adding that extra pound of muscle, you would painlessly shave away 4 pounds of fat!
Of course that means the opposite is true too. If you lose a pound of muscle—say from not eating enough protein and not exercising—you’ll blow through your protein stores, and end up gaining up to four pounds of fat in a year.
So building and maintaining muscle mass is critical for your health no matter how you look at it. And to do that you need to make sure you’re eating enough protein.
Eat MORE protein to build MORE muscle
Let’s take a look at the protein content in some common foods.
Oatmeal (1 cup steel-cut cooked):
7 grams of protein
[This is FAR too low. If you want to stick with oatmeal alone for breakfast you’ll need to add 20 grams of whey or pea protein powder to get an adequate amount.]
Omelet (2 eggs):
14 grams of protein
[Better, but still not enough. Add a third egg and you’ll reach the MINIMUM 21 grams you need in a meal. Or choose another protein from below to fill your omelet with.]
Animal meats (5 ounces):
44 grams of protein – chicken breast
43 grams of protein – turkey, white meat
42 grams of protein – sirloin
42 grams of protein – pork chop
42 grams of protein – pork tenderloin
40 grams of protein – turkey, dark meat
35 grams of protein – tenderloin
35 grams of protein – tilapia
34 grams of protein – salmon, coho
31 grams of protein – crab
29 grams of protein – shrimp
20 grams of protein – scallops
Dairy, Beans, Etc. (1 cup):
31 grams of protein – 2% organic cottage cheese
24 grams of protein – beef chili
21 grams of protein – turkey chili
21 grams of protein – 2% organic plain Greek yogurt
13 grams of protein – vegetable chili
13 grams of protein – 2% organic plain yogurt
12 grams of protein – black beans
08 grams of protein – cow’s milk
07 grams of protein – soy milk
01 grams of protein – almond milk
It’s easy to see that just eating a bowl of oatmeal alone for breakfast is inadequate. And even if you choose eggs, which are a great source of protein, you need to raise the number you are eating, or add in another protein to round things out.
If you’re choosing a nice piece of meat or fish for a meal, in most cases you’re set. But if meat is just one of the ingredients in a dish, such as in beef or turkey chili, you should add in another protein to reach your 30 grams goal.
And don’t forget to avoid chemicals, hormones and pesticides by always trying to choose organic produce and dairy, organic and grass-fed meats and wild-caught seafood.
If you find you’re still falling short on your protein goals (some folks tell me their appetite shrank as they got older) whey or pea protein smoothies are a great way to pack in more protein without the bulk.
Here’s one of my favorites. It delivers 31 grams of muscle-building protein in a single shake!
|Blueberry Almond Muscle Milk Smoothie|
|This delicious nutritious smoothie makes a great meal substitute or a snack to raise your protein intake for the day.
• Add all ingredients to a blender.
• Blend for two minutes until smooth.
Your goal should be to fit in at least 30 grams of protein three times a day to re-build muscle, reduce your fall risk and stay independent well into your Golden Years.
“Important Facts about Falls,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov
CDC’s WISQARS™ (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System), cdc.gov
“The Loss of Skeletal Muscle Strength, Mass, and Quality in Older Adults: The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study,” Journal of Gerontology: MEDICAL SCIENCES, 2006, Vol. 61A, No. 10, 1059–1064
“Human Aging, Muscle Mass, and Fiber Type Composition,” The Journals of Gerontology Series A 1995. Vol. 50 A (Special Issue) 11-1 6, In the Public Domain
Elena Volpi, MD, PhD., Annual Meeting of the American College of Nutrition in San Antonio, Texas, November 2014
Dr. Masley has received the award of Fellow from three prestigious organizations: the American Heart Association, the American College of Nutrition, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and he teaches programs at Eckerd College and the University of Tampa. In 2010, he received the physician Health Care Hero award by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, plus he has received several awards for his lifestyle related research. Dr. Masley sees patients from across North America at the Masley Optimal Health Center in St Petersburg, FL.
Dr. Masley has published several health books, including Smart Fat, The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, and Ten Years Younger, and numerous scientific articles. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Today Show, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), plus over 250 media interviews. He also completed a chef internship at the Four Seasons Restaurant in Seattle, WA, and he has performed cooking demonstrations at Canyon Ranch, the Pritikin Longevity Center, and for multiple television appearances.
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