- reduction of muscle mass may result with weight reduction, whether caused by medicine or diet, and this may be particularly problematic for older persons.
- While muscle mass falls naturally with aging, using medicines like Ozempic or Wegovy to lose a lot of weight quickly might result in decreased strength and bone density.
- According to experts, older persons may retain muscle mass while taking these drugs by increasing their protein intake and engaging in physical activity.
People who use Ozempic or Wegovy may experience rapid weight loss, but they also run the risk of losing muscle mass.
Losing muscle may raise the chance of fractures or falls, which cause the majority of injury-related fatalities in older adults, especially those over 65.1 In order to maintain their physical fitness and mobility as they age, older persons must maintain their muscle mass.
With aging, muscle mass normally decreases. Sarcopenia is a condition that begins in the late 30s and may cause some individuals to lose as much as 50% of their muscle mass by the time they are in their 70s.2
However, Elena Zamora, MD, a family medicine specialist at UTHealth Houston, warns that when older persons lose a significant amount of weight quickly after using a common injectable medication like Ozempic or Wegovy, they may have decreased strength and bone density that come along with muscle mass loss.
Patients who have sarcopenia also experience a decline in their stamina and capacity for carrying out everyday tasks. Imagine your loved one losing weight but lacking the stamina to prepare, take a shower, or go upstairs, Zamora said to Verywell.
Muscle loss is caused by a variety of factors, not only using weight reduction medications like Ozempic or Wegovy. According to Vijaya Surampudi, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the division of clinical nutrition at UCLA Health, losing weight may have the same effect whether it is accomplished by medication, food, and exercise.
“It is not specific to the medicine or its class. It is commonly recognized that as individuals lose weight, they may also lose muscle,” Surampudi told Verywell.
How to Keep Muscle While Losing Pounds
One of the greatest strategies for older folks to attempt to maintain their muscle mass is by eating protein.3 However, a 2019 research found that up to 46% of older persons don’t eat enough protein-rich meals.4
This is particularly troubling if a person over 65 also wishes to take Ozempic or a comparable drug, which might hasten muscle atrophy.
Muscle loss is a concern with these meds, but there are methods to avoid it, according to Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity expert located in New York City.
When patients consume adequate protein, I’ve seen patients’ muscles being preserved. Every patient may have a different protein need, and it will likely be more than it would be if they weren’t on medication, Salas-Whalen told Verywell.
The National Institute on Aging advises older persons to consume protein-rich meals such seafood, dairy products, beans, lentils, and fortified soy products.5
According to Zamora, strength or resistance training is crucial for assisting older persons to lower their risk of falling, particularly when using weight reduction medications. Although beginning a fitness regimen may seem intimidating, there are strategies to make exercise more pleasurable.
Exercise using resistance bands and dumbbells may be enjoyable to do while watching TV, according to Zamora.
Are Wegovy and Ozempic safe for older adults?
Surampudi adds that there are other issues to consider for older persons using Ozempic or Wegovy in addition to muscle loss. We may have certain GI side effects more often as we age, she said.
The primary component of Ozempic and Wegovy, semaglutide, may reduce stomach emptying and digestion. People who aren’t acclimated to the medicine may have nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux as a result.
It’s essential to undertake a risk assessment with a healthcare professional to see whether you can handle the possible side effects since these medications need to be used for a prolonged period of time in order to have any significant advantages, stated Surampudi.
For some individuals, the advantages will exceed the disadvantages, particularly if heart disease, sleep apnea, or diabetes aggravate the situation, according to Surampudi.
If you’re 65 or older and considering taking a medication like Ozempic or Wegovy, Salas-Whalen noted, you should be realistic about how much weight you can lose in a short period of time.
“Seek a gradual decrease of weight. That suggests to me that they are not losing muscle but rather body fat, according to Salas-Whalen.
According to her, these drugs are safe for elderly people as long as they are given by a qualified medical professional.
“I would say to see an obesity specialist or an endocrinologist that is going to really talk to you about all the other things besides the number on the scale,” Salas-Whalen said.