By CNN Staff
(CNN) -- In the future, a test of your sense of smell may help doctors predict your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to new research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week.
In two separate studies, scientists found that people who were unable to identify certain odors were more likely to experience cognitive impairment. The researchers believe that brain cells crucial to a person's sense of smell are killed in the early stages of dementia.
Researchers say this information could help doctors create a smell test to detect Alzheimer's earlier. Early detection means early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Doctors today can only diagnose Alzheimer's disease once it has caused significant brain damage.
"In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer's disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer's much earlier in the disease process," Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.
More than 35 million people worldwide live with dementia today, according to a new report. By 2050, that number is expected to more than triple to 115 million.
CNN's Jacque Wilson and Stephanie Smith contributed to this story.
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