By Mary Ann Tawash

It is possible to lose your sense of smell. About 5.7 million Americans can’t smell their favorite foods or fresh flowers. There are some freak causes of loss of smell, such as frequent exposure to toxic fumes.

But the most common are chronic congestion and nerve damage resulting from a head injury during a car accident, said Daniel Kurtz, a researcher on smell loss at the Smell and Taste Disorders Clinic, in an interview with Men’s Health.

How can you protect your sense of smell as you age? Outside of not letting mild congestion get worse, or staying out of car wrecks, Health magazine offers some other ways:

  • Smell something new every day. It’s possible to train your brain to pick up new scents, according to neurologist Alan Hirsch. Any time you stimulate your brain with something new, you increase your chances of keeping your nose nimble as you grow older.
  • Taste something new every day. Since most of a food’s flavor comes from its aroma, a weak sense of smell can seriously decrease the pleasure of eating. “Try new things, new cuisines,” Hirsch suggested. “Concentrate on textures and subtleties you haven’t noticed before.”
  • Stop smoking. Smoke and other acrid chemicals can kill or damage olfactory sensors. But the good news is that these sensors regenerate every 20 to 30 days.

Source: KIRO, Health Center, Diseases and Conditions, Sept 13, 2001