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You may be familiar with osteoporosis, the so-called “brittle bone” disease, but there is another condition – sarcopenia – that can lead to disability as we age, a top expert says.

“Sarcopenia is an age-related condition that can make walking and daily functioning difficult. It can also set the stage for bone fractures but, unlike osteoporosis, few people are aware of it,” Dr. Neerav Padilya, Ph.D., tells Newsmax Health.

Sarcopenia is defined as condition resulting in age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, and function, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says.

The condition was first described in 1997, and experts – including the NIH – say it is an independent risk factor for physical disability, unrelated to age or other health problems.

Our bones get larger and stronger until the age of 30, when muscle mass begins to diminish, and sarcopenia can begin to set in, says Padilya, vice president of research at Qurr, a New Jersey based company which makes a supplement that targets the condition.

“We rely upon our muscle mass for our mobility, as well as to maintain balance, so if you start to lose it due to sarcopenia, by time you’re in your late 60s or 70s, this will have a direct impact on your life,” adds Padilya, a researcher and patent-holding inventor.

“The condition also causes a lack of hand grip strength, so if this becomes weak, imagine trying to open a jar of pickles,” he adds.

In addition, a loss of muscle mass may increase the risk of diabetes, he says.

Research studies note that increased muscle mass can help the body handle glucose, reducing the risk of the disease, Padilya notes.

But the biggest danger that sarcopenia poses, says Padilya, is that it predisposes people to falling, and suffering a potentially life-threatening fracture.

“About 50 percent of the people over the age of 65 that die have suffered a fracture, so it is a very serious problem,” he adds.

Since muscle mass begins to diminish in your 30s, it’s never too early – or too late – to take steps to prevent sarcopenia, says Padilya.

Here are his recommendations:

  • Make sure you are eating enough protein. Eat foods with protein uniformly at meals throughout the day, not only at dinner. Consume 60 grams of protein daily, or 20 grams at each meal.
  • Get up and move. Even a small amount of activity on a daily basis really helps you reduce body fat and maintain muscle.
  • Introduce weight lifting and resistance training into your exercise program.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Take a multi-vitamin with vitamin D in it, and also make sure you are getting calcium from milk or eggs. Bone health and muscle health are closely connected.