Seminar Series

njjTHURSDAY, MARCH 25 |  ZOOM 3:30 p.m.

Honglei Chen, MD, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Yaqun Yuan, PhD

Postdoc of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

"Poor olfaction and the health of older adults: neurodegeneration and beyond?"

Poor olfaction is a common yet under-appreciated and under-studied sensory deficit in older adults. The human sense of smell decreases with age. Poor sense of smell affects 15-25% of older adults, and its prevalence increases to over 60% for those 80 years or older. Although most do not even realize they have it, olfactory impairment has been speculated to adversely affect important human functioning such as detecting environmental hazards, nutrition, mood and behavior, and quality of life. More importantly, multiple lines of evidence suggest olfactory impairment is one of the earliest and most important prodromal symptoms for dementia and Parkinson disease. Multiple longitudinal studies also reported a robust and “independent” association of poor olfaction with a higher mortality in older adults. Using data from the Health ABC study, we found poor olfaction was associated with 46% higher risk for death after 10 years of follow-up. Interestingly, neurodegenerative diseases and weight loss combined only explained about 30% of the excess in mortality, suggesting a large portion of the potential adverse health consequences of poor olfaction remained unknown. In this talk, we will present our data on poor olfaction in relation to the risk of pneumonia and physical function decline, in addition to its roles in dementia, PD, and mortality.