Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Our Muscles Age

        I read many excellent posts on aging. Topics covered are health, elder care and the  loss of parents, siblings, children and friends. Volunteering to assist elderly people is another large issue that many people are involved in. People become acutely aware of their aging and begin to think of their own end. People look in the obituaries and start to see that many of the people who die are younger than they are. 

       But there's another  factor I would like to look at. That is the process that gradually happens to our muscles. As we age we become weaker and this brings about difficulties in mobility and participating in daily activities.

      Today I listened to a radio documentary on a 92 year old woman who trains and  competes in all track and field  events. She holds world records in her age category in all track and field events except one. If I considered doing long jump my body would be jarred so severely that I may not be able to move again. This 92 year old trains four or five days a week and travels all over North America to compete. She is compared to someone who would be twenty years younger than her.

      Scientists are interested in this woman to see if there is a gene that allows her to  be so strong at this age. They want to know why she is so very strong while others that age are very weak.

     At about age 75 we lose a large percentage of our strength. Muscles are composed of  particles which are like  "trees". These particles are beside each other head to head and mesh with each other. This is what the process of stretching involves. We stretch the little particles to bring about better use of the whole muscle.  As we age the "trees" move further apart. In our seventies the "trees" are actually beside each other and do not mesh. From this point on the "trees" move further apart and we steadily lose strength. Scientists know that his process happens but they don't know much else.

     So that is why scientists are interested in the ninety two year old who competes in track. They want to know if there is a certain type of gene she has that the rest of us don't have that allows her this extraordinary strength. 

     If they find something, it's already too late for me. Getting up from the floor now takes me great  effort!