In a study that followed almost 3,000 older people with normal cognition, researchers found that a simple smell test was able to identify those at higher risk of dementia.
Senior author Jayant M. Pinto, a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago in Illinois, and colleagues report their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
They found that participants who could not identify at least 4 out of 5 odors in the simple smell test were twice as likely to have dementia 5 years later.
“These results show that the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health,” says Prof. Pinto, who is also an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
He explains that losing one’s sense of smell is a strong indicator of “significant damage,” and that this “simple smell test could provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify those who are already at high risk.”
Dementia is a collection of diseases
Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that erodes many aspects of cognitive function – for instance, it diminishes a person’s ability to remember, reason, solve problems, and hold a conversation.
As it progresses, dementia encroaches on daily life, eventually robbing people of their independence and personality.
Memory loss is not the only sign of dementia; many people can experience it without having dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, although it is much more common in older people. To be diagnosed with dementia, a person must show impairment in two or more core mental functions, of which memory can be one.