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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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Dysphagia in the News: 33% of Aging Americans will Develop Dysphagia

Research out of Johns Hopkins University suggests that at least 1 in 3 adults in the US will develop difficulty swallowing as they age. A startling statistic coming from their report states that 25% of aging adults diagnosed with dysphagia will die within one month of receiving their diagnosis, and 50% dying within a year.

Dysphagia can result in serious medical complications including choking, pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, all of which can lead to death.

It is critical that dysphagia clinicians and researchers continue to improve the prevention and treatment of this disorder.

At the NFOSD, our mission is to advance the treatment of swallowing disorders in our lifetime, and one of the first steps needed to do so is to increase awareness of the prevalence and negative outcomes of dysphagia.

Click Here to read the article from Daily Mail


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Caregiver’s Guide to Dysphagia in Dementia

Byline: Rinki Varindani Desai is an ASHA-certified medical speech-language pathologist and BIAA-certified brain injury specialist, specializing in the rehabilitation of cognitive-linguistic and swallowing disorders in adults. She is the founder and admin of the Medical SLP Forum, co-author of the mobile app Dysphagia Therapy and co-founder of Dysphagia Grand Rounds. Rinki currently serves on ASHA’s SIG 13 Editorial Committee as Associate Editor of Perspectives, on the Dysphagia Research Society’s Website, Communications, and PublicRelations Committee and has been selected to participate in ASHA’s Leadership Development Program 2017-2018. She has presented at national and international conferences on topics related to adult dysphagia and written numerous articles for leading SLP blogs and magazines. Originally from Mumbai, India; Rinki currently practices in Rochester, New York as Healthpro Rehabilitation’s SLP Team Leader for the Western NY region. You can follow her Medical SLP updates on Facebook and Twitter or reach out to her at

Dementia and Dysphagia

Dementia is not one specific disease. It is a broad term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, communication, and other thinking skills; severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities (Alzheimer’s Association). continue reading →

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Aging associated with development of dysphagia

Researchers at the University of Missouri established 15 metrics that could be compared to human swallowing function. These metrics include functions such as swallow rate and pharyngeal transit time. Using mouse models, researchers found that healthy aging mice develop symptoms of swallowing impairment that closely resemble the impairments seen in older adults: generally slowed swallowing function, impaired tongue function, larger size of the amount swallowed and an increase in the time it takes liquid to travel through the throat to the stomach.

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Also, click here for an NFOSD article on “How Aging Affects Our Swallowing Ability.”

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Dementia Detour with Dysphagia

Dementia imageByline: Laura Michael (Dysphagia Supplies Direct, LLC;

[Editors note: Laura is a regular contributor to the NFOSD website and e-newsletter, Small Bytes.  We wish to thank her for her support and dedication to making life a little easier to swallow. A longer bio is at the bottom of this article.]

Alzheimer’s and other dementias are often called “the Long Goodbye”. I would also describe the illness as a long journey.

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Swallowing and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinsons disease (small)

Byline: Michelle Ciucci, PhD, CCC-SLP is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Surgery-Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, and the Neuroscience Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michelle recently joined the NFOSD as a board member.

[Publisher note. Michelle Ciucci wrote this article for publication on the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research website. It was published on 11/5/2013 and can be viewed on their site by clicking here. The NFOSD is continually exploring ways in which we can work with other non-profit foundations where swallowing disorders present a significant risk to the members of their respective community’s.]

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