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Muscle Loss Leads to Falls—and the Pandemic Is Making It Worse

Older adults are at much higher risk of death from COVID-19 than their younger counterparts, but many also face another, less-recognized health risk associated with the pandemic: loss of muscle mass. This loss is one of the primary reasons for falls—the No. 1 cause of accidental death in those 65 and older. Also known as sarcopenia—from the Greek “sarco,” meaning flesh, and “penia” referring to deficiency or poverty—loss of muscle mass and strength is common among elders, but starts as early as our 30s. Poor diet is a risk factor for sarcopenia; so is physical inactivity. Now, with gyms closed and community centers on lockdown, many older people are arguably more sedentary than ever. I lead a team of scientists who study the role of physical activity and diet on sarcopenia at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Every day, I am struck by how this condition affects patients. Not only …

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