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Study: Bad sense of smell in old age indicates increased risk of death

Study: Bad sense of smell in old age indicates increased risk of death


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Sense of smell as an indicator of increased risk of death

Older people who have a worse sense of smell than usual for their age are at a much higher risk of dying within the next ten years. An American research team comes to this conclusion in a current study. The researchers propose an odor test as a standard test for seniors.

A new study from Michigan State University indicates for the first time that older people with a below-average sense of smell have an approximately 50 percent higher risk of dying within the next ten years compared to seniors who have a good sense of smell. The research results were recently published in the journal "Annals of Internal Medicine".

Course of the study

The research team led by epidemiologist Honglei Chen checked the data of around 2,300 participants aged between 71 and 82 years over a period of 13 years. All subjects had to complete an odor test with twelve odors and were then classified into the categories good, moderate or bad sense of smell. A comparison of these groups showed that older adults with a bad sense of smell had a 46 percent higher risk of death after 10 years than those with a good sense of smell.

The sense of smell is related to the risk of death

"A bad sense of smell becomes more common with age and is associated with a higher risk of death," Honglei Chen summarizes the study results in a press release. According to the study, factors such as gender and lifestyle influence the result only slightly. The study is the first to examine the possible connections between the sense of smell and increased mortality in old age.

Exact causes only partially known

A bad sense of smell is also known as an early sign of Parkinson's disease and dementia and is associated with weight loss, the researchers emphasize. However, these impairments could only explain 28 percent of the increased risk of death. "We don't yet know the reasons for more than 70 percent of the increased risk," explains Chen, who wants to uncover the secret in future studies.

Does the sense of smell indicate the state of health?

Chen suspects that a bad sense of smell is an early and sensitive sign of deterioration in health, even before there are symptoms that a doctor can diagnose. "A disturbed sense of smell in older adults could have more health effects than we previously knew," said the research director. He suggests introducing an odor test for routine visits to the doctor from a certain age. (vb)

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