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U College of Health Study Addresses Muscle Mass Loss After Menopause

February 12, 2004 — So you’ve survived hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with menopause? You have officially entered the post-menopausal stage, and now have a new set of concerns.

Foremost is sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass, which is the subject of a study by a University of Utah College of Health researcher who believes the disease can be countered with a special regimen.

“Aging causes the thinning of muscle mass, a problem common among women because they have less muscle mass than most men, to begin with,” said Robin L. Marcus, P.T., Ph.D., assistant professor in the college’s Division of Physical Therapy. “But I believe that it can be slowed down or even reversed with proper intervention.”

Sarcopenia and osteoporosis, the thinning of bone mass, are risk factors for falls and fractures in older women. Among overweight post-menopausal women, sarcopenia can also cause problems with insulin sensitivity, or the ability of the body to store glucose, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes and a substantially increased risk of heart disease.

Marcus is looking for women to participate in the study, which is partially funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Office for Research on Women’s Health. Participants must be between one and five years post-menopausal and not diagnosed with diabetes. The women should not currently be on hormone replacement therapy, or performing formal resistance (strength) training. Participants must attend a supervised 30-minute exercise program at an accessible (with free parking) location on the University of Utah campus three times a week for 12 weeks.

The exercises are meant to improve strength in leg muscles using a special type of stationary bicycle. In addition to countering sarcopenia, the training aims to improve insulin sensitivity, said Marcus.

Participants must undergo pre- and post-testing procedures at University Hospital. They will be paid $200 for successful completion of the study. For more information about joining the study, call (801) 581-4813.