Fundamentals - Gerontology, part 4: Endocrine and Gastrointestinal Changes in Aging Adults
by Ellis Parker February 23, 2023 Updated: August 09, 2023 2 min read
- 0:00 What to expect - Aging Changes
- 00:22 Endocrine system changes
- 00:58 Gastrointestinal system changes
- 2:14 Quiz Time!
Hi. I'm Ellis, and in this video, I'll be discussing the physiological changes of the older adult as it relates to the endocrine and the gastrointestinal systems. This card can be found in the gerontology section of our fundamentals flashcard deck, so if you have that deck, grab this card. There are a couple of things that are in bold and red on the back, and you can follow along with me.
We'll start with the endocrine system. As one ages, the endocrine system is going to change in that the thyroid is going to have decreased activity, and if the thyroid isn't as active, then you're going to have a decrease in basal metabolic rate. The other significant change to the endocrine system is that there is a decrease in insulin release and a decrease in tissue sensitivity to insulin, which will increase blood glucose levels, and it's going to increase the risk for diabetes. The gastrointestinal system changes for the older adult in that there is an increase in fatty tissue deposit in the abdomen. More seriously, there is a decrease in the saliva production and in mastication or chewing and a weaker gag reflex, and those factors are going to lead to an increased risk for dysphagia and for aspiration, so dysphagia being the ability to swallow, and then, of course, aspiration being inhaling particles into your lung, particulates, especially food, and drink. The older adult's appetite and their taste sensation, those are both decreased and so that can lead to malnutrition, right? If there's no urge and hunger drive, then somebody won't eat as much. And it's also going to happen with thirst. They have a decreased thirst mechanism, so they may not be driven to drink as much and they're at a much higher risk for dehydration. The final section that changes for our gastrointestinal system is that the older adult has a slower gastric emptying rate and they have slower bowel motility, and those factors are going to give them an increased risk for constipation.
What impact does a decrease in thyroid gland activity have on an aging adult? It decreases the basal metabolic rate. What possible complications are caused by a decrease in salivation, a decrease in mastication function, and a weaker gag reflex in aging adults? These factors may lead to dysphagia and aspiration. Name a change related to the gastrointestinal system that I mentioned that may put an older adult at an increased risk for dehydration. They may experience a decreased thirst mechanism.
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