Older people with a poor sense of smell (olfaction) may be at increased risk for serious health problems and premature death, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers analyzed data from almost 2,300 people, ages 71 to 82, whose sense of smell was tested at baseline. Those with poor olfaction had a 46 percent higher 10-year mortality rate than those with good olfaction, after controlling for such factors as age, weight, smoking, activity level, alcohol intake, depression, and medical conditions. Poor olfaction was associated with increased risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, as well as unintended weight loss, but these conditions explained only about one-third of the increased mortality rate.
If you’re experiencing impaired sense of smell and it isn’t due to something obvious like a cold or allergies, ask your health care provider about it. Not only can it make food less appealing and cut you off from many of life’s other pleasures, it may be a symptom of an undiagnosed medical condition (such as diabetes or nasal polyps) that can be treated, or a side effect of medication that can possibly be replaced.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Phantom Smells? You're Not Alone.