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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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Team “Phoenix Fury” Constructs Robotic Devise to Assist Those with Dysphagia

Team Phoenix Fury visits Dr. Peter Belafsky in January 2013 – From left to right: Hanna, Vishal, Dr. Belafsky, Aiden, Jeremy, Amrita, Akshay, and Nicole.

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NFOSD e-Newsletter (December 2012)

The NFOSD is excited to share with you insightful tips and innovative healing therapies, patient stories and successes, and news about our growing community. Please check back for future releases of our newsletter, or even better, sign up to automatically receive our periodic newsletters via email. We welcome you to our community and wish you HAPPY AND WARM HOLIDAYS with family and friends.

December 2012 Issue



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Meet our Medical Advisory Board

The NFOSD established a Medical Advisor Board in 2013 to help achieve our mission of improving the quality of life for those suffering from dysphagia, raising public and government awareness about this disorder, and increasing the funding for direct patient support and research.

Medical Advisory Board Members include: Nadine Connor, Jan Lewin, Christy Ludlow, and Nancy Swigert. Our committee members have focused on education, research, and direct patient support of swallowing disorders for a combined total of over 100 years.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING – – YOU’RE EXCUSED!

Many chairs will be vacant at our Thanksgiving table this year as members of our communities and families sit this one out because dysphagia takes no holiday! The inability to swallow- to eat and drink will leave those we care most about alone and isolated because they cannot commune with family and friends over a shared meal.

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