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What happens if you stop smelling the roses

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

In 1974, when Mac Davis sang "Stop and Smell the Roses," he crooned: "There's a whole lot more to life than work and worry," and he was right. But half of folks age 65 to 80 and 80% of those over 80 can't smell the roses or much of anything else. That turns out to stink.

Loss of sense of smell is associated with neurogenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, even before symptoms are evident, as well as cardiovascular disease, nutritional deficiencies such as iron anemia (what you can't smell, you don't eat) and immune disorders.

A study in JAMA Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery looked at 11 studies from around the globe and found that being unable to identify even two of 12 odors was a sign that a health problem, including diabetes and kidney disease, may be developing or worsening -- to a lethal degree. Note: COVID-19's association with loss of smell was not studied in this mix.

Loss of smell is not only associated with disease risks. If you can't smell a gas leak, a fire or spoiled food, that, too, threatens your well-being. So if you find that smells from flowers, food or a passing truck have faded or disappeared from your everyday experiences, tell your doctor. Get a physical and cognitive checkup to ID signs of impending health issues. Many can be slowed or reversed if you take aggressive action early. Tip: Try this smell acuity booster. Practice smelling four aromas daily: coffee, onions, lemon and lavender.

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Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email questions@GreatAgeReboot.com.

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
 

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