Smell that? The smelly sign that may increase your risk of dying by 46% within 10 years

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The course of your life is subject to many contingencies. For example, you cannot predict with absolute certainty that you will not succumb to the fate of chronic disease or catastrophic injury. However, progress is afoot in understanding the signs that are most predictive of longevity and death respectively.

In regards to the latter, one of the more surprising predictors is loss of smell.

Studies have shown a link between loss of smell among older adults and risk of death within a short period — often five years or less.

Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine built on prior evidence by applying the association to a longer timeframe.

The study found loss of smell increased risk of death over more than a decade.

In addition, the study also identified the leading causes of death associated with loss of smell.

Researchers gave smell identification tests to 2,289 adults ages 71 to 82 (about half of whom were men).

They found that those who scored low on the smell test had a 46 percent higher risk of dying within 10 years, and 30 percent within 13 years, compared with those who had a stronger sense of smell.

Specifically, poor smell was linked to deaths from cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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Other research has suggested that poor sense of smell is a possible early symptom for dementia, but this study suggests it also could be a sign for underlying health issues related to heart disease.

During the Covid pandemic, loss of smell came under the microscope once again.

During the first wave of COVID-19, loss of smell was one of the hallmark features of the virus.

However, smell dysfunction is becoming less common as the virus evolves.

A study published in May surveyed 616,318 people in the United States who have had COVID-19.

It found that, compared with those who had been infected with the original virus, people who had contracted the Alpha variant — the first variant of concern to arise — were 50 percent as likely to have chemosensory disruption.

This probability fell to 44 percent for the later Delta variant, and to 17 percent for the latest variant, Omicron.

Loss of smell has also been associated with long Covid – the symptoms that stretch on long after the infection has disappeared.

According to the NHS, you should contact a GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks or more after you had COVID-19 or thought you may have had COVID-19.

The health body continues: “Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they’re having on your life.

“They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them.”

These might include:

  • Blood tests
  • Checking your blood pressure and heart rate
  • A chest X-ray.

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