Why Seniors Can Struggle With Swallowing

If you have developed swallowing problems as you age, a new study may explain why.

A loss of muscle mass and function in the throat helps explain why 15 percent of seniors have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), researchers have found.

"Dysphagia has serious consequences for health and quality of life," said study author Sonja Molfenter. She is an assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University in New York City.

"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," Molfenter said in a university news release.

Swallowing problems can also lead to health issues such as malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia from food and drink that end up in the lungs instead of going down the throat.

Don't Fear Coffee. Coffee has been unfairly demonized. The truth is that it's actually very healthy. Coffee is high in antioxidants, and studies show that coffee drinkers live longer, and have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and numerous other diseases. Eat Fatty Fish. Pretty much everyone agrees that fish is healthy. This is particularly true of fatty fish, like salmon, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and various other nutrients. Studies show that people who eat the most fish have a lower risk of all sorts of diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression.

Research has also shown that when patients with dysphagia are admitted to the hospital, they're in the hospital an average of 40 percent longer than those without dysphagia. That adds up to an estimated cost of $547 million a year, the study authors said.

Dysphagia in older adults is concerning as the proportion of seniors in the United States is expected to top 20 percent by 2030, the researchers noted.

The findings were published recently in the journal Dysphagia.

Tags: