Sipping a luxurious glass of wine. Marveling at the smells and tastes of an exotic locale. Savoring the scent of a favorite seasonal candle. It’s true: We smell and taste our way through life. But what happens if you wake up one day and find that your senses aren’t quite as acute as they used to be? Find out more about how smell and taste change as you age – and what you can do about these changes.
How Smell and Taste Change as You Age
Picture this: You spend hours cooking a favorite meal. You sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor – but when you take that first bite, you realize that something feels a bit off. Your sense of taste is dulled, and you struggle to smell the dish’s tasty aroma. The question is: Is this phenomenon a normal part of getting older, or is it something to worry about? According to a 2016 study, 23 percent of Americans over the age of 40 experience changes to their sense of smell. That number goes up for adults over the age of 80. This phenomenon, known as presbyosmia, is an extremely common consequence of aging. Fortunately, it may be preventable.
The statistics don’t lie: Most American adults will experience a decline in sense of smell or taste as they get older. But what causes this frustrating condition? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, presbyosmia may be related to a loss of nerve endings in the nose, making it harder to detect certain smells. This phenomenon, while frustrating, may not be completely inevitable. That same study found that, while getting older can lead to sensory decline, losing your sense of smell or taste may also be linked to certain neurological disorders, medication use, and other age-related issues.
Other Potential Causes of Smell and Taste Changes
As mentioned above, there are several factors that may influence your sense of smell and taste as you get older:
- Easily treatable nasal and sinus problems, like allergies
- Cigarette smoking
- Taking certain medications, like beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
What to Do If You Lose Your Sense of Smell and Taste
Losing your sense of smell and taste can be extremely frustrating, significantly impacting your quality of life. After all, it makes sense that you may experience depression or anxiety if you’re not able to enjoy food the way you once were. Loss of taste and smell can also lead to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes, as many adults with sensory issues use excess salt or sugar to enhance the taste of their food. So, what can you do to take control of your senses? First things first: If you’re experiencing loss of smell, taste, or both, check in with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to adjust smell-inhibiting medications or detect conditions – like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s – that impact your senses. If the condition worsens, your doctor may also refer you to a specialist like an allergist or neurologist.
Understanding how smell and taste change as you age is an important part of preparing for your golden years. However, significant sensory decline doesn’t have to be inevitable. As always, if you notice troubling symptoms or changes to your overall health, consult a trusted medical professional. The sooner you address the issue, the sooner you can get back to savoring your favorite scents and tastes.
Are you looking for a community that provides a positive, healthy atmosphere where you can live out your golden years? The Shores of Lake Phalen is an assisted living and memory care community in a quiet, peaceful environment in Maplewood, Minnesota. Surrounded by a gorgeous wooded setting between two lakes, our residence offers the accessibility of apartment-style housing with the atmosphere and elegance of a resort. We offer numerous health and safety amenities, fun events and activities, a friendly and accommodating staff, and so much more. Schedule a tour of the community to explore our spacious apartments, elegant dining room, and more. We look forward to hearing from you!