A disappearing sense of smell among older people should be taken more seriously, a new research has found, as it predicts premature death.

There's an almost 50 percent increased risk of dying early within the next 10 years for senior people with poor sense of smell. The risk is the same among healthier individuals.

A Warning Sign

Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) reviewed data from the National Institute on Aging's Health ABC study. Approximately 2,300 individuals between ages 71 and 82 were followed over a 13-year period. They were black and white men and women who participated in a smell test of the 12 common odors.

Based on the test results, the participants' sense of smell were classified as good, moderate, or poor. Those with poor sense of smell has a 46 percent risk of dying in the next decade and 30 percent risk of mortality within 13 years.

"Poor sense of smell becomes more common as people age, and there's a link to a higher risk for death," said Honglei Chen, co-author and epidemiologist in the College of Human Medicine at MSU. "Our study is the first to look at the potential reasons why it predicts a higher mortality."

More Reason For An Early Doctor's Consult

Factors such as gender, race, other demographics, and lifestyle had minimal effect on the outcome. Chen said they do not have an explanation yet for the majority of the cases.

Poor sense of smell is known to be a precursor to Parkinson's disease and dementia. It is also linked to weight loss, but only 28 percent of the mortality risk is associated with these conditions.

Chen said older people should recognize that a poor sense of smell could be a sign of deteriorating health. He urged affected individuals to include an olfactory screening in routine doctor's appointments.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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