Monday, 23 April 2018

Why Older People Experience Muscle Wastage In Their Legs - Double The Trouble For Neuropathy Patients

Today's short post from (see link below) explains why so many older people lose so much muscle as they age. Apparently this is due to a decrease in the nerves controlling the legs. The fitter you are, the slower this happens but it's an inevitable result of ageing. Imagine then, if you've already had neuropathic problems for some years and have begun to experience muscle wastage many years earlier than normal. This happens to a large percentage of long-term neuropathy patients and unfortunately, by definition, it will only get worse as they age. There's no reversal treatment available at the moment but at least they've discovered why leg muscles seem to decrease with age and it makes it all the more logical that it happens to people living with nerve damage.

Muscle loss in old age linked to fewer nerve signals
12 March 2018
Researchers say they may have worked out why there is a natural loss of muscle in the legs as people age - and that it is due to a loss of nerves.

In tests on 168 men, they found that nerves controlling the legs decreased by around 30% by the age of 75.

This made muscles waste away, but in older fitter athletes there was a better chance of them being 'rescued' by nerves re-connecting.

The scientists published their research in the Journal of Physiology.

As people get older, their leg muscles become smaller and weaker, leading to problems with everyday movements such as walking up stairs or getting out of a chair.

It is something that affects everyone eventually, but why it happens is not fully understood.

  Prof Jamie McPhee, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said young adults usually had 60-70,000 nerves controlling movement in the legs from the lumbar spine.

But his research showed this changed significantly in old age.

"There was a dramatic loss of nerves controlling the muscles - a 30-60% loss - which means they waste away," he said.

"The muscles need to receive a proper signal from the nervous system to tell them to contract, so we can move around."

The research team from Manchester Metropolitan University worked with researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and the University of Manchester.

They looked at muscle tissue in detail using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and they recorded the electrical activity passing through the muscle to estimate the numbers and the size of surviving nerves.

The good news is that healthy muscles have a form of protection: surviving nerves can send out new branches to rescue muscles and stop them wasting away.

This is more likely to happen in fit people with large, healthy muscles, Prof McPhee said.

Although it is not known why connections between muscles and nerves break down with age, finding out more about muscle loss could help scientists find ways of reversing the condition in the future.

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