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Swallowing Becomes Difficult With Aging: Study

Older adults have difficulty in swallowing food as they age because of the natural loss of muscle mass and function, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the journal Dysphagia.

The study by Sonja M. Molfenter, an assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders and her colleagues, explain why 15 percent of seniors’ experience dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

‘Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is experienced in older adults because of the natural loss of muscle mass and function in the throat which in turn affects the quality of life.’


Among other health issues, swallowing difficulties can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia from food and drinks being misdirected into the lungs. Swallowing difficulties can also have a financial impact.
Other studies have demonstrated that when patients with dysphagia are admitted to the hospital, they normally experience a 40 percent longer length-of-stay than those without dysphagia estimated to cost $547,000,000 per year.

Molfenter and her colleagues noted that dysphagia in older adults is particularly relevant as the proportion of seniors in the United States is projected to increase to over 20 percent by 2030.

“Dysphagia has serious consequences for health and quality of life,” said Molfenter, the study’s lead author.

“This research establishes the need for exercise programs for older adults that target throat muscles just like those that target the muscles of the arms, legs and other parts of the human body.”

Source: Eurekalert

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