Americans visit the doctor an average of three times a year. And during each visit, the doctor or a nurse typically takes vital signs.
There are four standard vital signs:
- Pulse rate
- Respiration rate
- Blood pressure
- Body temperature.
But new research makes the case that there should be a fifth.
The Vital Sign Your Doctor Should Check, But Doesn’t
A review of more than 140 recent studies looked at the relationship between muscle mass and overall health. It was published online in the journal Annals of Medicine.i
The data showed that muscle mass is crucial, especially for those with chronic disease.
The study found:
- Alzheimer’s is more severe in patients with low muscle mass.
- Women with breast cancer have a 40% higher risk of survival if they have more muscle mass.
- Intensive care patients are less likely to die if they have more muscle mass.
- Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have better outcomes and less risk of osteoporosis when they have more muscle.
Dr. Carla Prado is an associate professor at the University of Alberta. She was the main author of the study. She believes muscle mass should be considered a standard vital sign monitored by doctors.
“If healthcare professionals identify and treat low muscle mass, they can significantly improve their patients’ health,” she said.ii
3 Steps to Build Muscle Mass
You don’t need to become a fanatical weight lifter or bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger to improve your muscular health. Just aim to add on a bit more muscle by taking these three steps:
- Make sure you eat enough protein. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle. Include some protein in every meal. Good sources include wild-caught fish, organic meats, eggs, and poultry.
Few vegetables have the complete protein components you need, but quinoa is one of them. For an extra boost, you could also take a powdered whey protein supplement. These are widely available in grocery stores. Make sure to get the sugarless kind.iii
- Do strength workouts. Again, you’re not looking to bulk up like a bodybuilder, so it won’t require a huge investment of time. Focus on exercises that strengthen multiple muscles instead of isolating just one. These include squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, bench presses, and planks.
- Rest. After working out a particular body part, those muscles need time to repair. That’s when they become stronger and larger. Wait at least a day or two before exercising the same muscles again.iv
When doctors look at important medical markers, they usually skip muscle mass. But how much muscle you have is a crucial indicator of your overall health and fitness. Take care of your muscles and they will take care of you.
Editor’s Note: Muscle mass—more than any other factor—may determine how long you’ll live. Discover how to get a stronger body even as you get older. Get all the details in our monthly journal Independent Healing by clicking HERE.