Loss of Odor Perception Might Signal Alzheimer’s

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Imagine my recoil when I read the above Associated Press headline recently.

The story went on to detail the first study that linked loss of smell to Alzheimer’s. Difficulty identifying odors was associated with a higher risk of progressing from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s. As someone with very little sense of smell and taste, perhaps I should be worried.

These kinds of medical studies rarely offer a cheery report.

Lead author Robert Wilson of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center did concede that a diminishing sense of smell is not cause for panic. Thank goodness.

Perhaps I would be less interested if I had not just celebrated my 63rd birthday, and for years have had a profound loss of two very important senses: smell and taste.

A sporting accident some 40 years ago (I was playing right field and tried to catch a fly ball in the sun with my nose) and a traffic accident some 30 years ago (I was rear-ended in my VW at a stoplight in a hit-and-run accident by someone doing 50 to 70 miles per hour) left me with a deviated septum.

For years I walked around with 50% breathing capacity in one nostril and 10% in the other. The result was that I was taking up to 16 Sudafed and 16 Ibuprofen a day for some time before I came to my senses and developed suffering to an art form. I have better medications now.

Years later I was reading a health book and learned that Sudafed does a really good job of allowing you to breath and at the same time causes some folks to lose their sense of smell and taste. It happened to me. I now have virtually no sense of smell or taste.

If there was a fire in my house, I would figure it out when I saw the smoke. If there was a great tasting food I would be more sensitive to its texture than its taste. I would probably do great in England where the food is so bland.

The boyhood joy of selecting the perfect tasting candy to buy is now lost on me. There is no candy that does much for me now. The pure joy of a kid in a candy store is gone forever.

I used to love the licorice taste of Good ‘n Plenty, Butterfinger and Snickers bars, spearmint hard candies, Christmas ribbon candy and peanut brittle with caramel and peanuts.

It is the same with soda (carbonated water drunk alone or with liquor or wine), pop (informal for soda pop) and soda pop (a carbonated soft drink). I find very little taste between them, or flavors among them.

Be advised. A lot of medications we take as we get older have trade-offs.