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    Age related changes in skeletal muscle mass and function

    Maden-Wilkinson, Thomas M (2013) Age related changes in skeletal muscle mass and function. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    The loss of muscle mass with age (Sarcopenia) has received growing attention over the past decade. Despite efforts to provide a universal definition with clinically meaningful cut-off points for diagnosis, there is no clear consensus on how to best quantify and assess the impact of loss of muscle mass and function on functional limitations. Whilst most previous studies have used dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to quantify this loss, chapter 2 of this thesis shows that DXA underestimates the loss of muscle mass with age in comparison to the gold standard MRI. Muscle mass per se is not enough to determine whether a person has an exceptionally low muscle mass, as it can be readily seen that a healthy tall person will have a larger muscle mass than a small person. Clinicians and researchers thus need an index of muscle mass that takes differences in stature into account and also gives an objective cut off point to define low muscle mass. In Chapter3, we show that femur volume does not significantly differ between young and old. We used this observation to introduce a new index: thigh muscle mass normalised to femur volume, or the muscle to bone ratio. This index allows the examination of the true extent of muscle atrophy within an individual. In previous studies the appendicular lean mass (determined with DXA) divided by height squared appeared to be a relatively poor predictor of functional performance. In Chapter 4, the index introduced in Chapter 3, the muscle to bone ratio, proved to be a somewhat better predictor of functional performance in the overall cohort. This was, however, not true when examining the intra-group relationships. A similar situation applied to the maximal muscle strength. In older adults, the parameter which predicted functional performance best was muscle power per body mass, measured during a counter-movement jump. Chapter 5 shows that part of the larger loss power and force than muscle mass is attributable to a left-ward shift of the torque-frequency relationship, indicative of a slowing of the muscle, and reduction in maximal voluntary activation, as assessed using the interpolated twitch technique in older adults. Chapter 5 also shows that the fatigue resistance during a series of intermittent contractions was similar in young and older adults. However, older adults could sustain a 50% maximal voluntary contraction force longer than young people. Part of this discrepancy maybe due to an age-related slowing of the muscle.

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