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Why Do We Lose Our Sense of Taste and Smell as We Age?

Cranial nerves in the brain control many functions in the body. For instance, the main job of the olfactory nerve is to control the sense of smell. When receptors high in the nose smell something, the data is transferred to the brain through the nerves where it is interpreted as scents.

The same goes for our sense of taste. Instead of the nose, the receptors for taste are on the tongue. There are four distinct tastes we can detect: salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Each one corresponds to different areas of the tongue. When one is detected, chemical data is sent to the brain and interpreted as one of the four tastes by the brain.

As the body ages, neural pathways can begin to degenerate. You probably won’t lose your sense of taste and smell altogether, but they will likely experience a diminished capacity. Maybe it takes you longer to detect a smell even if it is familiar. Smelling disorders are more common in older men than in women.

The center in the brain that controls our sense of smell is close to that which controls our sense of taste. In fact, if you think that it is your taste buds that are not doing their job, chances are it may actually be your sense of smell that is affected.

Think about it. When you have a cold where your nasal passages are swollen and congested, it is hard to breathe and also heard to smell. Without the ability to smell, food seems to taste bland. We often associate how a food smells with how it should taste. Without one sense the other is impaired as well.

Smell is important in life. Smells alert us to dangers such as fires, gas leaks, burning electrical wires and other things. It kicks our bodies into high gear to respond to the threat. So, finding out why your sense of smell is decreased is necessary.

Age accounts for some of the loss of these two senses, but it is not the only reason. Even if age is taken into account there could be other reasons that further affect them and make the resulting situation worse. These other factors that diminish both include colds, smoking, sinus problems, stroke, surgery, head trauma and diabetes as an example. You won’t know for sure what is normal until you consult with a doctor.

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