Muscle weakness and increasingly fragile bones. In osteosarcopenia there are two clinical conditions which are typical of the third age, namely osteoporosis and sarcopenia. “The first is a disease in which the micro-architecture of the bone deteriorates and easily opens the way to pathological fractures, even after falls that are normally not dangerous”, explains Dr. Vito Nicola Galante, specialist in Orthopedics and Traumatology at the D’Amore Hospital in Taranto. «Sarcopenia, on the other hand, is one progressive loss of muscle mass and strengthwhich increasingly reduces the ability to move and carry out daily activities, worsening the balance and affecting the general quality of life ».
What are the risk factors of osteosarcopenia
In addition to the normal aging process, which weakens the skeleton and muscles, the onset of osteosarcopenia can contribute to familiarity (for example, having a mother or father who has had major fractures, especially in the vertebral or neck of the femur) and malabsorption syndromes, characterized by the lower ability to digest and absorb the nutrients contained in food, as happens in celiac disease or in chronic intestinal diseases. “Behind it may also be a lack of vitamin D or bad habits of lifesuch as alcohol abuse or cigarette smoking.
Sometimes, to “impoverish” bones and muscles can also be theprolonged or chronic use of certain medications, such as cortisone, which “sleep” the osteoblasts, or cells specialized in the production of bone tissue, thus unbalancing the bone renewal process », says Dr. Galante. “An additional risk factor is theexcessive thinnesswhich usually derives from a poor diet, although osteosarcopenia can also affect those who have extra kilos in the opposite way: in fact, obese patients use foods that are high in calories rather than protein, for which fat ends up replacing muscle mass “.
What are the symptoms
The first signs that must be suspicious are weakness, reduced physical strength and postural instability: Patients with osteosarcopenia have difficulty walking long distances, getting out of a chair, climbing stairs, and lifting weights. «They are all signs of a major muscle weakness, which must always be investigated. On the other hand, osteoporosis can remain silent, which often does not cause any symptoms until a fracture occurs », warns the expert.
How osteosarcopenia is diagnosed
At the first alarm bells, it is good to contact the general practitioner for an initial evaluation. Osteoporosis can be diagnosed with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which is able to accurately assess the distribution of bone, lean and adipose tissues. Muscle mass, on the other hand, can be investigated in some cases with an MRI, but there are simpler tests, such as walk test (where you measure the distance that a subject is able to travel by walking as fast as possible on a flat surface in six minutes, along a straight path) or the one that exploits an appliance called hand grip, able to measure the strength of the hand. «The investigations can be integrated with the bioimpedance analysiswhich exploits the transmission of a very low voltage electric current, imperceptible by the patient, and thanks to special mathematical algorithms reconstructs the body composition in terms of lean mass, fat mass and water », describes the expert.
How osteosarcopenia is prevented
Osteosarcopenia is prevented from childhood, because it is necessary to set a lifestyle that provides regular physical activity and a balanced diet to maintain top bone and muscle structure. “Although with a wide variability, about 1% of bone mass is lost every year as early as the age of 30, so it’s never too early to start,” comments Galante.
How to cure
Once diagnosed, theosteosarcopenia it comes with a radical change in one’s lifestyle. Experts recommend a well structured trainingusing weights, elastic bands, machines or performing free body exercises, which are able to selectively stimulate all muscle groups, including the weakest ones: “Movement improves balance, reduces the risk of fractures and increases bone quality and muscle.
This must be combined with one diet to improve protein intake: 1-1.5 grams of protein for each kilo of body weight per day can be helpful, to which the doctor can possibly add a supplementation of vitamin D and calcium “, lists Dr. Galante, who concludes:” Diet and physical activity are the main anabolic stimulus that leads to the synthesis of muscle proteins and, consequently, also to an improvement in bone trophism. The important thing is not to lose heart, because it is proven that surrendering to the feeling of weakness that characterizes osteosarcopenia ends up leading to social isolation, lack of planning, depression. And instead, step by step, you can recover an optimal and satisfying quality of life: just start ».