Have you stopped being able to identify familiar smells? Then you may be about to die, according to a new study.
A group of scientists studied a group of over 1,000 older people who weren't sick or suffering dementia. They gave each person a test to see how well they could identify 12 familiar odors. Those with the lowest scores had a much higher probability of dying over the next year than those who couldn't.
According to the journal Chemical Senses, where the researchers published their findings:
Olfactory scores ranged from 0 to 12 correct (mean = 9.0, SD = 2.2). In an initial analysis, risk of death decreased by about 6% for each additional odor correctly identified (hazard ratio = 0.94; 95% confidence interval: 0.90, 0.98). Thus, mortality risk was about 36% higher with a low score (6, 10th percentile) compared with a high score (11, 90th percentile). The association persisted in subsequent analyses that controlled for naming ability, disability, cerebrovascular disease, characteristic patterns of leisure activity, depressive symptoms, and apolipoprotein E genotype. The results indicate that difficulty identifying familiar odors in old age is associated with increased risk of death.
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