Doctors pay attention to your vision and hearing as you age, and now researchers suggest they should be paying attention to another one of your senses.
A new study is linking sense of smell to frailty, indicating that a person’s ability to identify scents could be linked to frailty risk.
A sense of smell can play a big role in your life. Not only does it help you enjoy food and flowers, but it can alert you to potential dangers like gas, fire, or something burning.
The new study looked at 1,160 older adults enrolled in the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project between 2015 and 2016. Their average age was 76, and each participant was exposed to five scents to measure olfactory identification and six scents to measure how sensitive their sense of smell was.
Results were then matched to a frailty score, which was based on five markers: weight loss; exhaustion; weakness; slow walking speeds, and low physical activity.
Researchers found that there was a significant and meaningful reduction on frailty status for every one-point increase on both olfactory (sense of smell) identification and sensitivity scores.
On the other hand, the worse a person’s sense of smell, the more frail a person was. The findings suggest, although they cannot prove, that loss of smell can be a measurable and potential risk factor for frailty in older adults.
The relationship between smell and unhealthy aging is unclear, but some of the consequences of losing the sense could include a loss of appetite, difficulty monitoring personal hygiene, depression, and the inability to detect toxic fumes.
These risks could translate into weight loss, weakness, malnutrition, potential injuries, and inadequate personal care.
There is little you can do to prevent losing your sense of smell. However, these findings do suggest it is something to be monitored. It can also indicate the importance of preventing frailty through measures like diet and exercise.