Experts are saying the elderly with low muscle density have a higher likelihood of being hospitalized than those with a more moderate ratio.
Muscle density is the ratio of lean tissue to fat contained within muscle, and the study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute suggests it may be a better predictor of the risk of hospitalization than muscle mass or size.
The team analyzed more than 3,000 healthy seniors aged between 70 and 80 for an average of five years and looked at factors such as their walking speeds, ability to stand up repeatedly and leg strength. They found that the largest number of hospitalizations occurred among those with the least dense muscles.
Dr. Peggy Cawthon, the study’s lead author, says the findings are important because they suggest non-pharmacological and non-surgical approaches such as enhanced physical activity or moderate exercise may help keep vulnerable seniors out of hospital.
A high-protein diet or appropriate supplementation may also be useful for some seniors at risk of low muscle density.