Central, peripheral and comorbid affects of normal and disordered aging on deglutition

E. K. Plowman, A. Domer, Peter C Belafsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Swallowing impairment, or dysphagia, is highly prevalent in the aging population. Common sequalea include malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, pulmonary abscess, depression, social isolation, and ultimately death. Healthy aging can deleteriously affect central neural mechanisms governing swallowing, peripheral muscle strength and endurance, and upper aerodigestive tract sensation. Collectively, these agerelated alterations to the swallowing mechanism of otherwise healthy individuals are termed presbyphagia and functionally equate to a diminished functional reserve, making the older population more susceptible to dysphagia. In addition to the effects of natural aging on deglutitive function, a higher incidence of medical comorbidities and pharmacologic treatments known to adversely affect swallowing contribute to a high prevalence of dysphagia in older adults. As the aging population represents the fastest growing demographic in the world, an advanced understanding of the effects of aging on swallow function is essential for health-care professionals. The purpose of this article is to provide a review of age-related changes in the swallowing mechanism across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Aging
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Eating
  • Pneumonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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