If you lose this ability, you may be at higher risk for dementia

In all likelihood, there will never be a cure for dementia.

Saying nothing of the fact that the disorder is an inseparable companion of the aging process, the collective symptoms associated with it owe themselves to a varied group of diseases. These include but are not limited to the following: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular cognitive impairment, parkinson’s disease, huntington’s disease, HIV, and traumatic brain injuries.

Even if we manage to clear 50 without contracting any of the complications listed above, the likelihood that we will endure cognitive impairments of some kind increases dramatically for populations above the age of 65.

However, we can decelerate this outcome if we remain vigilant about early warning signs.

Recently, a paper published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, identified an indicator that too often goes ignored.

Our sense of smell is actually epicentral to several serious neurological conditions. This may already ring true to you because of the CDC’s updated list of common COVID-19 symptoms.

Our multisensory functions are rarely impaired without some kind of underlying condition. In the new study authors, Willa Brenowitz, Allison R Kaup, and Kristine Yaffe posit that loss of smell can actually be a key player in regards to preclinical dementia detection.

“Few studies have examined impairment in multiple senses (multisensory impairment) and risk of dementia in comparison to having a single or no sensory impairment,” the authors write. We studied 1,810 black and white nondemented participants from Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study aged 70-79 years at enrollment. “Multisensory impairment was stronggly associated with increased risk of dementia. Although, the nature of this relationship needs further investigation, sensory function assessment in multiple domains may help identify patients at high risk of dementia.”

Multiple Sensory Impairment’s Associated With Increased Risk of Dementia

To support their hypothesis, Brenowitz and her colleagues recruited 1,794 older adults between the ages 70 and 79).

“The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease,” Brenowitz who is the study’s first author, explained in a news release. “It’s thought that smell may be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role in promoting dementia.” Brenowitz is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco and a core faculty member at UCSF’s Center for Population Brain Health.

These participants were administered two different cognitive tests at the beginning of the study and then again every other subsequent year.

To assess declining cogniton’s relationship with multisensory function, the researchers paired tests with checkups that evulated changes in vision, hearing, touch, and smell.

After review, each participant was given a “summary score” (0 to 12) that linked lower multisensory functions with accelerated rates of cognitive decline and dementia.

Consistently, lower multisensory function scores were associated with faster rates of cognitive decline. More discreetly, participants who could identify the distinctive scent of odors such as rose, lemon, or paint thinner were half as likely to develop dementia.

Multisensory function reported to be at mild levels, was also associated with accelerated “cognitive aging.”

Conversely, among those with multisensory summary scores in the “good” range, only 12 percent developed dementia.

“We found that with deteriorating multisensory functioning, the risk of cognitive decline increased in a dose-response manner,” senior author Kristine Yaffe of UCSF’s departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Neurology concluded in the news release. “Even mild or moderate sensory impairments across multiple domains were associated with an increased risk of dementia, indicating that people with poor multisensory function are a high-risk population that could be targeted prior to dementia onset for intervention.”