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Swallowing Problems and Parkinson's Disease Closely Linked

04-11-2011 04:19 PM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: Inside/Outside Press

April 11, 2011. Natick, Massachusetts, USA. Today is World Parkinson’s Day, dedicated to spreading awareness about this disorder that affects millions worldwide. It affects quality of life for the patient, for the family, and for the communities within which they live.

Parkinson’s disease can also end lives. The most common way is does this is by causing pneumonia that the person is ill-equipped to handle. It is becoming increasingly recognized that this life-ending pneumonia is the result of faulty swallowing.

Swallowing is something we generally take for granted -- six hundred or so swallows per day that we pay little or no attention to until something goes wrong.

Persons with Parkinson’s disease are at especially high risk to have serious swallowing problems. Everything slows down with this neurologic disorder. Dehydration can easily result with complications of stroke and falls. Because meals can take forever – or so it seems to family caregivers – malnutrition is often of concern. Lack of coordination between breathing and swallowing (which share key anatomic structures) can set up fatal aspiration of food or liquid.

Drs. Roya Sayadi and Joel Herskowitz, a married duo – speech-language pathologist and pediatric neurologist, respectively – have taken it upon themselves to spread the word about swallowing problems. “They affect at least 25% of all adults over the age of 65,” Dr. Sayadi, “even more in persons with Parkinson’s disease.”

Added Dr. Herskowitz, a member of the Boston University Medical School faculty, “Because Parkinson’s disease can affect adults well before their senior years, they need to arm themselves with knowledge about swallowing problems well before then.”

"Many of these deaths can be prevented," Dr. Sayadi emphasized, “if only people know what to look out for and what to do when they encounter a problem.”

They have been working directly with the Parkinson’s community in support groups and conferences. They have also published a book on the subject, “SWALLOW SAFELY: How Swallowing Problems Threaten the Elderly and Others. A Caregiver’s Guide to Recognition Treatment, and Prevention.”

This groundbreaking book presents a brief overview of normal swallowing, shows how things can go wrong, tells what symptoms to look for, and guides the reader in getting help. A “Letter For Your Doctor” allows the reader to record observations and concerns.

SWALLOW SAFELY (ISBN 978-0-9819601-2-8) is 180 pages, paper, $14.95, available through the publisher, Inside/Outside Press, 11 Wilson St., Natick, MA 01760,, (including Kindle version), and as an iBook. For more information contact Joel Herskowitz at (508) 740-5578 or

We are a publishing company devoted to informing the public about overlooked health problems. We are based in Natick, Massachusetts, a town west of Boston.

Joel Herskowitz
Inside/Outside Press
11 Wilson Street
Natick, MA 01760
(508) 655-8933

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