, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 303-316

Aging-Related Changes in Skeletal Muscle

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Abstract

The aging-related motor handicap and the growing population of elderly citizens have enormous socioeconomic effects on the modern healthcare system. The mechanisms underlying impaired motor performance in old age are complex and involve the central and peripheral nervous systems and the muscle tissue itself. It is widely accepted that the aging-related loss of muscle mass, strength and quality has a significant detrimental impact on motor performance in old age and on the ability to recover from falls, resulting in an increased risk of fractures and dependency. Therefore, the prevention of falls and gait instability is a very important safety issue, and different intervention strategies have been used to improve motor performance among the aging population. There is general consensus that physical exercise is a powerful intervention to obtain long term benefits on muscle function, reduce the frequency of falls, and to maintain independence and a high quality of life in older persons. The results from studies using different types of hormone supplementation therapies have shown interesting and encouraging effects on skeletal muscle mass and function. However, the potential risks with both growth hormone and androgen treatment are not known and long term clinical trials are needed to address safety concerns and the effects on skeletal muscle.

Recent advancements in cellular/molecular, physiological and molecular biological techniques will significantly facilitate our understanding of aging-related impairments of muscle function and contribute to the evaluation of different intervention strategies.