​Your Dementia Risk Doubles If You Have a Poor Sense of Smell

Can your nose sniff out a brain disorder years before it surfaces? Apparently, it can. Your sense of smell may predict your risk of developing dementia, new research published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society suggests.

In the study, researchers recruited nearly 3,000 adults in their 50s or older without any signs of dementia and asked them to take a smell test. This tested their ability to correctly ID five common odors, from what’s considered least to most difficult to detect: peppermint, fish, orange, rose, and leather.
Seventy-eight percent of them passed: They had a normal sense of smell, meaning they were able to sniff out at least four of the five odors.But 19 percent only identified two of the three smells. Three percent detected just one odor, and 1 percent of the participants weren’t able to ID any of them.

After five years,the researchers determined that those who couldn’t sniff out at least four of the five odors were more than twice as likely to develop dementia than those with a normal sense of smell were—and the worse they performed on the sniff test, the higher their risk was. In fact, nearly 80 percent of those who correctly ID’ed just one or two smells developed dementia. As for those who didn’t get even one right? Nearly all of them were diagnosed with dementia, the researchers said in a statement.

nearly 80 percent of those who correctly ID’ed just one or two smells developed dementia. The researchers determined that those who couldn’t sniff out at least four of the five odors were more than twice as likely to develop dementia than those with a normal sense of smell were — and the worse they performed on the sniff test, the higher their risk was. As for those who didn’t get even one right? Nearly all of them were diagnosed with dementia, the researchers said in a statement.

Your olfactory nerve—responsible for transmitting smell signals to your brain—is the only cranial nerve directly exposed to the environment, meaning it can be damaged by things like pollution or infection. Because of its location, it can transmit these hazards to your central nervous system, potentially putting other parts of your brain at risk. And that may explain why problems smelling can be an early signal of Alzheimer’s, the researchers explain. (Five guys who live with early-onset Alzheimer’s tell you what it’s really like to feel their minds slip away.)

What’s more, when your olfactory system is working properly, it is able to self-regenerate. Problems with your sense of smell can indicate that your cells’ ability to rebuild key components might be compromised, which again could put your brain at risk.

More research needs to be done on the sniff test before it can make its way into your doctor’s office, but the hope is that it can eventually be used to detect people who are at risk of dementia before they develop other signs. Then, they can undergo early-stage prevention trials to see if newer research can help stall the brain disease.

In the meantime, you can try some lifestyle prevention tips, first. One super easy one? Eat more fruit: People who ate citrus nearly every day were 23 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who ate it less often, as we reported. (For more health news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter.)

Source: ​Your Dementia Risk Doubles If You Have a Poor Sense of Smell

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