Exercise programs should be targeted at throat muscles, just like they might be for other parts of the body, in order to help older adults with difficulty swallowing, according to a study published in Dysphagia.

The findings show that as adults age, a natural loss of muscle and function in the throat can make it more difficult for efficient constriction to occur while swallowing.

This can lead to an increased chance of food and liquids being left in the throat, presenting a choking hazard.

“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.” said Sonja M. Molfenter, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

Molfenter and her colleagues noted that dysphagia in older adults, which can potentially lead to malnutrition and dehydration, is particularly relevant as the proportion of seniors in the U.S. is projected to increase more than 20% by 2030.