Will assessing smell be part of a general health assessment for older people? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Testing your sense of smell as you age may soon be part of a routine health assessment if research from a Johns Hopkins study associating loss of smell with the development of frailty is confirmed. Nicholas Rowan, a Hopkins otolaryngologist and one author of the study, says assessing smell clinically would be fairly straightforward.

Rowan: Perhaps what’s happening at the level of our nose is much like what happens in our body peripherally. Like when we start to get up slow from a chair or we walk slow, or we start to lose weight or we don’t have as much energy. We know that the loss of the sense of smell is one of the first things that happens when you have Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s dementia. Perhaps smell is somewhere on this continuum with the physical frailty phenotype. In addition to looking at people’s weight and looking at their grip strength, walking speed, things we’ve known for a long, long period of time that are known to be bad for you perhaps losing your sense of smell is.  :31

Rowan says it’s not known whether intervention can reverse this decline. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.