Your sense of smell might be the key to sniffing out Alzheimer’s disease

29 October 2019

29th October 2019

Simple tests have been found to be good indicators for predicting the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Muriel Cozier

Researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Centre have found that patients with mild memory problems who scored well on two five minute screening tests, one measuring cognitive ability, the other measuring the ability to indentify odours, had a  lower risk of later developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

The researchers looked at data from 749 older adults with mild cognitive impairment without dementia who completed a brief cognitive screening test and a 40 item smell identification test. The participants were then followed for an average of four years to see if any were later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

During the follow up period 109 of the participants developed dementia, and the vast majority of them received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. However the researchers found that 96.5% of the participants who performed well on both tests failed to develop dementia during the period studied. Among those with good scores on the tests, no one aged 70-75 and 81-83 was found to transition to dementia during the study period.

D.P. Devanand, Professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Research Psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute said ‘No one has looked previously at whether performing well on both the odour identification test and global cognitive performance tests Is better at predicting a low risk of cognitive decline or development of Alzheimer’s.

Professor Devanand added ‘These  findings…suggest that for older adults up to their mid-eighties who are unimpaired on both a brief odour identification test and a brief global cognitive test, transitioning to dementia in the next few years is very unlikely and further investigative evaluation for dementia typically is not needed.’

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