Scientists find the link between head injuries and smell loss in older people

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A recent study led by Andrea L.C. Schneider, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, took a closer look at older adults to find out if having a head injury in the past affected their sense of smell.

The research involved nearly 6,000 people and was part of a larger health study called the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, conducted between 2011 and 2013.

What Did the Researchers Find?

The researchers discovered that 28% of the study participants had a history of head injury. Those who had a head injury were more likely to have issues with their sense of smell.

Specifically, 24% of people with a history of head injury reported smelling problems, compared to 20% who had never had a head injury.

Also, 15% were confirmed to have anosmia, a complete loss of smell, as opposed to 13% with no head injury history.

Even after taking into account things like age, other health conditions, and mental health, the results stayed the same.

People with more severe head injuries or multiple head injuries were even more likely to have problems with their sense of smell.

Why Is This Important?

This research suggests that if you’ve had a head injury, especially more than one or a severe one, you might be at greater risk for losing your sense of smell as you get older.

What’s more interesting is that these individuals were not always accurate when asked about their smelling abilities. Some underestimated their problem, while others overestimated it.

This is why the researchers suggest that people with a history of head injury should have their sense of smell tested in a more scientific way, rather than just relying on their own judgments.

This is important because losing your sense of smell can affect your quality of life in many ways. It can make food less enjoyable and can also be a safety risk, as you might not be able to smell things like gas leaks or spoiled food.

So, if you or someone you know has a history of head injuries, it might be a good idea to get your sense of smell checked.

This can help you understand the full impact of head injuries on your body and may lead to better health choices as you age.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and flavonoid-rich foods could help prevent dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that cranberries could help boost memory, and how alcohol, coffee and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

The research findings can be found in AMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

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