Purpose of review: Sarcopenia, or the decline of skeletal muscle tissue with age, is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. The purpose of this article is to review the current definitions of sarcopenia, its potential causes and clinical consequences, and the potential for intervention.
Recent findings: Although no consensus diagnosis has been reached, sarcopenia is increasingly defined by both loss of muscle mass and loss of muscle function or strength. Its cause is widely regarded as multifactorial, with neurological decline, hormonal changes, inflammatory pathway activation, declines in activity, chronic illness, fatty infiltration, and poor nutrition, all shown to be contributing factors. Recent molecular findings related to apoptosis, mitochondrial decline, and the angiotensin system in skeletal muscle have highlighted biological mechanisms that may be contributory. Interventions in general continue to target nutrition and exercise.
Summary: Efforts to develop a consensus definition are ongoing and will greatly facilitate the development and testing of novel interventions for sarcopenia. Although pharmaceutical agents targeting multiple biological pathways are being developed, adequate nutrition and targeted exercise remain the gold standard for therapy.