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Screening and identifying sarcopenia in primary care

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Nurse and old guy Sarcopenia is characterised by progressive and generalised loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength

Around 2.7 million people in the UK have sarcopenia. This loss of muscle mass mostly affects older people. As our population ages it is set to become more common and to contribute to rising levels of frailty in older people. An estimated 14% of people aged 65-70 have sarcopenia, around 25% of those aged 75-84 and 53% of those aged 85 and over. Figure one, based on ONS data and prevalence data illustrates population ageing and levels of sarcopenia.1,2,3

What is sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is a term derived from the Greek words sarx (flesh) and penia (lack of). The term sarcopenia was first used in 1989 by Irwin Rosenberg to describe age-related decrease of muscle mass.4 He asked if sarcopenia was an age-related loss of muscle mass and function, a disease, or a normal part of the ageing process.5

In the last 30 years there has been a great deal of work and research. It is now accepted that sarcopenia is a syndrome characterised by progressive and generalised loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength with a risk of adverse outcomes such as physical disability, poor quality of life and death.6,7 A definition was published in 2010 by the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP) and revised in 2018 by the EWGSOP2 group.8 The EWGSOP2 group proposed three criteria to identify possible sarcopenia.


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