National / Science & Health

Expert on aging forms research group on muscle loss

by Makoto Sekiya

Kyodo

An expert on aging has launched a research group focusing on loss of muscle strength among elderly people in Japan’s aging population.

Hidenori Arai, 55, a professor at Kyoto University’s Faculty of Medicine, formed the Japanese Study Group on Sarcopenia and Frailty earlier this year to establish ways to enable elderly people to live long healthy lives without nursing care.

Sarcopenia is muscle loss associated with aging, a major contributor to frailty in the elderly, which increases the risk of falling and hospitalization.

“I want people to know that symptoms can be alleviated if they receive appropriate instructions on dietary habits and exercise,” Arai said.

The group’s first conference was held at the University of Tokyo in October, bringing together more than 400 experts from a range of fields, including geriatricians, orthopedic surgeons, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, dietitians and nursing care managers. It was more than twice the number expected.

“If we combine wisdom from experts in each field, we can produce more successful results,” Arai said. “We hope to establish treatment that prevents elderly people from requiring care, as well as appropriate nursing care.”

Arai developed an interest in sarcopenia and frailty when he became acquainted with rehabilitation specialists at Kyoto University and geriatrics researchers working in other Asian countries.

He said he believes “research in one particular field can inspire progress in another.”

Arai said he is worried about the eating habits of young women, many of whom appear to be fixated on losing weight.

“Muscle mass in women is declining and the risk of their suffering from sarcopenia in the future could increase,” he said.