DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I am 76 years old, and over the last year it has been getting harder to do everyday tasks. Even getting out of a chair is sometimes difficult, and I can tell I’m much weaker than I used to be. Is this a normal part of aging, or should I see my doctor?
ANSWER: Diagnosing the cause of muscle weakness that develops over time can be challenging. Gradual loss of strength can contribute to many health problems, including increased risk of falls, decreased bone strength and weight gain.
A degree of loss of muscle mass and strength can occur as part of aging, but there are many medical problems that can cause weakness, so any concern about this issue should be discussed with your physician.
An important distinction is whether your sense of weakness is actually due to the loss of muscle power caused by either central nervous system disease, or by nerves or muscles that aren’t functioning properly. Alternatively, you may feel weak due to factors such as fatigue, sleepiness, lightheadedness or chronic pain.