As you get older, your senses tend to dull in different degrees. Most people think hearing and sight are the first to go. You don’t think much about your sense of smell. A new scientific study has shown that losing your sense of smell could be a sign of dementia.

Losing Your Sense of Smell Can Be A Sign of Dementia

The Study of Smelling


The team is part of the National Institute on Aging’s Health ABC study. They looked at smell tests that were done by over 2,200 people between the ages of 71 and 82. The tests were done in 1999 and 2000.

The participants smelled 12 different scents that are familiar from everyday life. Then they had to pick from a list of four options.

They were then graded as having good, moderate, or poor smelling functions.

The health of the participants was followed up on for 13 years, including annual phone surveys.

Losing Your Sense of Smell Can Be A Sign of Dementia


After considering other health factors like age and smoking, the team of researchers found that seniors with a bad sense of smell had a 46% higher chance of dying a decade earlier than those with a good sense of smell.

Sense of smell seems to be a good predictor of death for healthy people at the start of the study. Those who had a bad sniff score but were in okay shape had a 62% higher chance of dying in ten years than people with a good sniff score.

One thousand two hundred eleven participants who died by year 13 of the study, around 28% of the increased risk people had dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and maybe even cardiovascular disease. Lung disease or cancer didn’t seem to be linked to the sense of smell.

Some people are wondering if doctors can use a sniff test to diagnose dementia. The area of the brain that deals with smells is usually the first part of the brain to get damaged by Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

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