What is dementia?
Memory problems, particularly struggling to remember recent events, are usually the earliest signs to alert to dementia.
However, research has shared that your nose could hold clues even before memory problems turn up.
One of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia worldwide, is anosmia (loss of smell) or hyposmia (reduced smell).
These two red flags can strike before other signs begin, potentially helping to detect the condition earlier.
A study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that the decline in sense of smell is connected to a faster build-up of Alzheimer’s related pathology seen in brain scans.
READ MORE Four early signs of dementia that aren’t always recognised as symptom
Looking at people in their 70s, the research team noticed that those who were unable to identify smells from items such as roses, lemons and onions were more likely to develop the mind-robbing condition over the next decade.
Willa Brenowitch, the study’s lead author, said: “The olfactory bulb, which is critical for smell, is affected fairly early on in the course of the disease.
“It’s thought that smell may be a preclinical indicator of dementia, while hearing and vision may have more of a role in promoting dementia.”
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While an altered ability to smell could ring alarm bells, the NHS notes it’s also worth knowing the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
The health service notes that the main symptom of the brain condition in the early stages is memory lapses.
It recommends looking out for the following signs:
- Forgetting about recent conversations or events
- Misplacing items
- Forgetting the names of places and objects
- Having trouble thinking of the right word
- Asking questions repetitively
- Showing poor judgement or finding it harder to make decisions
- Becoming less flexible and more hesitant to try new things.
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of dementia, it’s a “good idea” to see a GP, the NHS recommends.
Your doctor can carry out simple tests to establish the cause of these symptoms and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
An early diagnosis opens the door to future care and treatment.
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