As you get older and become less active, your body will undergo muscle loss. Studies show that adults age 50 and older lose 15% of their muscle strength each decade as they age. This can reduce your endurance to the point that you feel weaker in your legs.
When this happens, you may notice a reduction in your leg strength on a daily or chronic basis. Often, this is simply a part of the aging process. And, as you use your legs less, your leg muscles atrophy or shrink, making the weakness worse in the long run.
Some common health conditions contribute to this process of muscle loss.
A reduction in hormones
Declining hormones contribute to loss of muscle strength.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD causes poor circulation in your legs, which can restrict blood flow. If you have PAD, you could experience leg weakness, numbness, tingling, pain, color changes, or cramps. Your legs and feet may also feel colder than the rest of your body. You’re at a higher risk of getting PAD if you smoke.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a common problem in aging seniors. It signals a blood clot deep within the leg, usually in the lower leg. The blood pools near the clot and doesn’t return to the heart as it should. DVT can be serious if the blood clot breaks off and travels to the heart or lungs. If you develop DVT, you would likely develop swelling and a cramping pain in your leg. The color of the skin near the clot could turn pale, red, or blue. The skin on your leg may also be warm to the touch.
Diabetes is also common in seniors. While diabetes usually causes you to have high blood sugar, it can also diminish the circulation in your legs. This can cause you to have leg pain, cramping, or swelling. You might also develop neuropathy, which could make you lose feeling in your legs. The sugar swings could make you feel off-balance and dizzy. You may have an overall weak feeling that contributes you to moving less and less..
According to the American Heart Association, approximately 70% of seniors age 60 to 70 have cardiovascular disease. This causes narrowed or blocked arteries that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. A heart attack can cause chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, or numbness and weakness in your arms or legs. If you have a stroke, you could have sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, particularly in the face, arm, or leg. You might also have problems speaking or feel confused. Sudden problems walking or dizziness are also common with a stroke.
Chronic heart failure
Chronic heart failure often happens in seniors. When the muscle of your heart doesn’t pump as well as it should, heart failure can result. High blood pressure and narrow arteries in your heart could weaken your heart. If you have heart failure, you might feel short of breath, fatigue easily, or have weakness. Your legs and abdomen may swell, and you may have a chronic cough or wheezing. You may also notice your heart fluttering or beating fast.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Both conditions can cause problems with gait and walking, as well as affect your balance. These can make you feel weak in the legs and increase the risk of a fall.