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How Aging Affects Our Swallowing Ability

Byline: Rebecca Leonard, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, UC Davis

[Editors note: Click on the image below to view a 16 second video fluoroscopy clip of a swallow by a 20-something year old (on the left) versus a 70-something year old (on the right). Notice how smoothly liquids glide down the throat of the younger subject versus the effort and time required by the older subject to clear his throat. Comment — How nice it would be to be young again! Video provided courtesy of Rebecca Leonard.]

Swallowing difficulty (dysphagia) is a common consequence of many medical conditions, including stroke, chronic diseases that affect the nervous system and surgeries that affect the head and neck.  But swallowing difficulty can also be associated with aging.  In fact, it has been estimated that as many as 20% of individuals over the age of 50 years, and most individuals by the age of 80 years, experience some degree of swallowing difficulty. Individuals over the age of 65 years accounted for 12.9% of the U.S. population in 2009, and are expected to account for 19% of the population by 2030.  These large and growing numbers motivate us to understand all we can about how aging affects swallowing.  Hopefully, what we learn will help us treat, and possibly prevent, dysphagia in the elderly.

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Jack is Back – Two Week Swallowing “Boot Camp”

A Daily Log of my experiences by Jack Eadon

[Editors note. The NFOSD published Jack Eadon’s story in mid-November. He has a website, www.jacksgettingback.com where he has chronicled his medical and personal journey. On January 14, 2013 he began an intensive two week “Boot Camp” to try and regain his swallowing ability. As President of the NFOSD, I communicate with a lot of people suffering from dysphagia. One of the pleasures of this position is meeting other people, like Jack, who are determined and committed to do what they need to succeed. The NFOSD wishes Jack the best and hopes this intensive approach to therapy opens a new avenue in our arsenal for fighting dysphagia.]

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Bittersweet Nectar – The Journey of a Mom and Her Son

By Jaime Bailey (Eli’s mom)

[NFOSD note – Jaime shares the 5 most helpful tips for families experiencing a similar experience at the bottom of this article.]

The NFOSD shared my son’s story with you recently; I thought it might be helpful to others if I shared my story.  My beautiful, energetic, happy, 2 year old baby boy, the joy of our life, has severe dysphagia.  I know there are lots of other mothers out there just like me.  We are not alone!  Raising the awareness of swallowing disorders is a small step that can help millions.

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Jack is Back! Rockstar, Business Owner and Author – He has Dysphagia

On March 24, 2012, Jack Eadon, along with his Team Jack walked the 6th Annual ABI Walk for Brain Injury Awareness at Huntington Beach in California. Jack is an incredible individual with an amazing story.

Jack is well aware of surgical injury. Since August, 2010, his fifth and final surgery, he has been unable to swallow and is tube fed. Diagnosed at an early age in 1978, Jack had 4 surgeries before his epidermoid brain tumor was completely excised in 2010. His battle with the epidermoid brain tumor has been challenging, yet he remains hopeful and determined.

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Eli: A Beautiful Thriving 2 Year Old… with Dysphagia

This story is about Eli, a bright, energetic, angel of a boy ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, Eli has been suffering from dysphagia his entire life. The rigors of set feeding schedules, uncomfortable and strenuous nutrition intake, social isolation, and emotional heartache caused by having a son with dysphagia have put a tremendous strain on his entire family and their extended social and employment infrastructure.

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