Health Care

Sense of smell offers a clue to when we will die

Sense of smell offers a clue to when we will die”

MSU researchers used data from the National Institute of Aging's Health ABC study, which included almost 2,300 people from 71 to 82 years old for a 13-year span.

The participants were then classified as having a good, moderate or poor sense of smell depending on their accuracy - and then tracked for the next 13 years. The study also reported that 28 percent of the increased risk of death could be attributed to Parkinson's, dementia and unintentional weight loss, all of which predict death in their own right and can also affect a person's sense of smell.

Compared with those having a good smell sense, people in the "poor" category were 46 percent more likely to die after 10 years and 30 percent after 13 years.

Elderly people with a poor sense of smell have a higher likelihood of dying in the 10 years after testing than those whose sniffers stay sharp. Approximately 2,300 individuals between ages 71 and 82 were followed over a 13-year period. A 2017 study conducted in Sweden supported the link between poor sense of smell and death risk, but suggested that dementia isn't a strong factor between the two.

"It tells us that in older adults, impaired sense of smell has broader implications of health beyond what we have already known", Chen said. Previous research has suggested that changes in sense of smell could be an early indicator that diseases like Alzheimer's are underway in the brain.

"Neurodegenerative diseases and weight loss explain only part of the increased mortality", writes the team.

"P$3 oor olfaction among older adults with excellent to good health may be an early warning sign for insidious adverse health conditions that eventually lead to death", the researchers wrote. "Our study is the first to look at the potential reasons why it predicts a higher mortality." says Honglei Chen.

The connection between a poor sense of smell and mortality risk didn't appear to differ by sex or race or based on individuals' demographic characteristics, lifestyle, and or chronic health conditions.

Senior citizens may soon get a "smell test" the next time they visit their doctor.

The study could not explain how differences in sense of smell were linked to death risk.

Dr Chen said: 'We don't have a reason for more than 70 percent of the increased risk.

However, those with a poor sense of smell shouldn't necessarily be anxious as the results apply broadly to populations rather than individuals, McConway said.

Chen said poor sense of smell may be an early and sensitive sign for deteriorating health before it's even recognized.

According to the paper, about a quarter of older Americans experience a decline in sense of smell, but this is more likely to go unnoticed compared to loss of sight or hearing.

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