Dementia affects seniors across the globe, but did you know that seniors with a keen sense of smell are half as likely to develop dementia? A new study shows that those with better sensory perception have a better chance at warding off dementia.
More To Your Senses Than You Think
Dementia is not a particular disorder but a collection of disorders that cause cognitive impairment. The symptoms of dementia are memory, thought, and social ability disorders. The research, led by The University of California tracked approximately 1,800 seniors that were ages 70 to 79 for over 10 years. All participants at the start of the study were dementia-free.
Past findings indicate a link between dementia and senses such as vision, hearing, and touch. The UCSF researchers are studying whether individuals who experience dementia in several sensory areas have impairments.
Smelling Out Dementia
Researchers checked the senses of the patients in the third and fifth year of the study. They checked hearing along with vision, touch and smell – participants were asked to recognize odors like roses, lemons, onions, paint thinner, and turpentine in the odour experiments. The researchers then ranked the sensory abilities of the seniors as good, medium, or poor.
The findings show that there was dementia in 27% of seniors with low sensory levels and 19% have the disorder in the middle range and 12% in the healthy range. Mild or moderate sensory impairments were correlated 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.
Sensory impairments may be attributed to underlying neurodegeneration or the same disease mechanisms as those that affect cognition. Sensory impairments, particularly hearing and vision, can exacerbate cognitive deterioration, either directly impacting cognition or indirectly through increasing social isolation, impaired mobility and adverse mental health.
What Is Your Nose Telling You
There is a clear correlation between the sense of smell and the likelihood of dementia. Seniors who display a 10% reduction in scent are 19% more likely to develop dementia. In comparison, a similar loss in hearing or vision only leads to a rise in dementia from 1 to 3%.
The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease. Smell is thought to be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role to play in promoting dementia.
Seniors with a strong sensory system are on average healthier than those with weak senses. They are also more likely to have a high school diploma, less likely to have diabetes, and marginally less likely to have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. These findings increase the likelihood that lifestyle habits and overall health may indicate both sensory function and risk of dementia.
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