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Reduced sense of smell not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s


It is known that our human olfactory sense can detect countless distinct smells. A study that was conducted in 1927 claimed that we can distinguish 10,000 distinct odors, but a more recent 2014 study at Rockefeller University found that humans can discriminate countless more. 

Sadly, a diminished sense of smell may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some clinics use early detection tests by asking patients to identify various odors that include bananas, smoke, cloves, or garlic. A struggle to identify such odors may indicate a need for additional testing.

It is important to recognize that a reduced sense of smell may not be a sign of Alzheimer’s but may be linked to other factors such as COVID, medications or sinus infections. Individually, a smell test is inconclusive evidence of Alzheimer’s disease but can provide a valuable indicator for further testing.

The importance of our sense of smell probably qualifies as an unnoticed gift in the comings and goings of daily life yet, it connects us with time, place, emotions and memories, good or bad. For those with Alzheimer’s, having reduced olfactory function can be one more frustration for the patient though it should not be assumed that this sense is lost. It really depends on the individual.

The aroma of morning coffee or perhaps the perfume of basil in the simmering pot or ragu can provide a powerful connection to happy life moments that bring comfort. Pay attention to the cues of your loved one and grasp their comfort level in any situation. 

Above all, take time and make space to enjoy daily details and embrace what is too often considered mundane, including our ability to smell. Only in absence, and then too late, do we often recognize the ordinary as extraordinary.

For more information on this topic, please visit my websites: www.thepraticolab.com, https://medium.com/@domenicopratico, https://www.newswise.com/users/expert/Domenico-Pratico-10051658

Domenico Praticò is the director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Dr. Domenico Pratico

Dr. Domenico Pratico is the director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia.

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