Poor sense of smell increases risk of death

Without examining premature deaths specifically, the NHS argues that a poor sense of smell may have had little impact on the overall risk of death.

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.

People who started out the study in excellent or good health were 62 per cent more likely to die by year 10 when they had a poor sense of smell than when they had a keen nose, researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Compared with older adults with a good sense of smell, those with poor smell were at a 46% higher risk for death at 10 years and 30% at 13 years.

The sense of smell is known to deteriorate with old age, and research has previously found this might indicate underlying health problems that could result in a greater chance of death in the near future.

A team of scientists at Michigan State University in the USA analysed more than 2,000 patients aged between 71 and 82.

Losing the ability to smell lemons or onions could be a sign of looming death, a new study suggests. 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.

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

"It tells us that in older adults, impaired sense of smell has broader implications of health beyond what we have already known", Chen said.

Sense of smell seemed to be a particularly powerful predictor of earlier death for those who were in good health, the researchers wrote.

Professor Robert Howard, an expert in old age psychiatry at University College London, said: 'The study showed that the risk of dying in the next 10 years was increased by about a half in people with impaired sense of smell and that only some of this risk could be explained by the development of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or by weight loss.

Prof Jayant Pinto, from the University of Chicago, who has carried out previous research in the area, welcomed the study.

'Most of the increased mortality risk could not be explained by associations with specific illnesses such as cancer or cardiovascular disorders.

What's more, it's entirely unclear whether the participants in this study had always possessed a poor sense of smell, or whether this trait had only come about more recently. "This raises the interesting possibility that loss of smell may be a marker of generalised ageing and should be taken seriously by older people and their doctors".

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