Declining sense of smell as you age

Your sense of smell may decline as you age. Learn what you can do to maintain food flavor.

One uses their sense of smell every day for both pleasure and safety. The sense of smell is often taken for granted. As one gets older the sense of smell may decrease. Many things can reduce your sense of smell, like a cold, the flu or something more serious such as cancer treatment, Alzheimer or Parkinson's disease.

Smell is important because it can keep you safe. The sense of smell will tell you if there is smoke in the house or if there is a gas leak. Smell can tell you if your food is spoiled or chemicals are present. Your sense of smell is also tied to your sense of taste. One can become disinterested in food when they can't taste it. According to the National Institute on Aging, when food begins to taste bland, aging adults try to improve the flavor of food by adding salt or sugar. Both salt and sugar can have negative effects on one's health especially if someone has high blood pressure or diabetes. This alone can compound health issues which can lead to weight loss and depression.

Taste buds can also be affected by certain medications. Medicines can dry one's mouth which can change the taste of food. Other conditions, like gum disease and dentures can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Caring for your teeth and gums as you age is important in maintaining one's general health and maintaining good taste in food.

If you are experiencing a reduction in taste or smell try these tips from by the National Institute of Aging.

  • Add color to your plate. Make your own food visually appealing, enticing your appetite. Bright colored vegetables like tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, green broccoli and others provide color to your plate and nutrient dense foods which are important to good health.
  • Add stronger spices to flavor food. Many spice blends are already prepared for the consumer and can be purchased in the grocery spice aisle. Also, consider brushing on or adding lemon or lime juice, and hot sauces to flavor foods.

If you are concerned about your ability to smell or taste your food discuss it with your physician as there may be other reasons for your inability to taste. For more information on aging well, go to the Michigan State University Extension website.

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