By Priscilla Pittman, MSW, MA
Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services
- Slower processing of meds and alcohol
- Slower reflexes might impair driving
- After age of 30, metabolism slows about 2% each decade due to loss of muscle mass if we are not working on our muscle strength. The average American loses as much of 50% of their muscle mass b/w ages of 50-70 (www.johnhopkinshealthalerts.com/reports/nutrition_weight_control/1811-1)
- A good way to offset the changes in metabolism and loss of muscle mass is to reduce the calories consumed and increase physical activity.
- Exercise and weight training can help maintain muscle mass & it is also important to eat breakfast, lean protein, get sufficient sleep and move around more!!
- There are a number of medical conditions that affect the nervous system and may cause swallowing problems (dysphagia), but it is a common problem experienced with aging.
- The Swallowing Disorder Foundation suggests that about 20% of people reaching 50 and most of those 80 years old will encounter swallowing problems.
- Some changes we need to be aware of are:
- As we age our vocal cords may reduce in volume and not be able to protect our airway. This may allow what we swallow to enter our lungs. (aspiration) If you often cough or experience a voice change after a swallow you might want to check with your doctor.
- The muscles in our tongue and throat are responsible for moving foods and liquids from our mouth to our esophagus, but if this movement is not completed food may remain in the throat
- The sphincter is a round muscle that sits atop the esophagus that opens and closes to allow products to enter. But, when we age the muscle may decrease in size and pills, food, etc may become stuck or swallowing may be more difficult.
- As we age the throat is longer and more dilated resulting in a longer swallow time and the need for more protection from the sphincter and vocal cords to compensate for additional swallow time. (increase of 20%)
Some medications may contribute to swallowing problems, but alerting your physician to problems you recognize could result in a swallow study and assistance that could protect your life.
- Gather saliva under tongue, hold tip of tongue between teeth & swallow
- Blow a kiss
- Lick a Popsicle
- Try to touch your tongue to your nose