AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Elderly Who Have Trouble Identifying Odors Face Risk of Dementia

Smell loss predicts cognitive decline in healthy older people

A long-term study of nearly 3,000 adults, aged 57 to 85, found that those who could not identify at least four out of five common odors were more than twice as likely as those with a normal sense of smell to develop dementia within five years.

Although 78 percent of those tested were normal – correctly identifying at least four out of five scents – about 14 percent could name just three out of five, five percent could identify only two scents, two percent could name just one, and one percent of the study subjects were not able to identify a single smell.

Five years after the initial test, almost all of the study subjects who were unable to name a single scent had been diagnosed with dementia. Nearly 80 percent of those who provided only one or two correct answers also had dementia, with a dose-dependent relationship between degree of smell loss and incidence of dementia.

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