JOPLIN, Mo. — Many people lost their sense of smell and taste when they had COVID. And, for some, it didn’t come back for quite a while.

Could it indicate cognitive problems later in life?

When he had COVID three years ago, Dr. Rob McNab, COVID Director for the Freeman Health System, lost his ability to taste and smell. In fact, he says it’s still not back to normal.

So is he among the part of the population more prone to develop Alzheimer’s? He says it wouldn’t surprise him if he was.

“Interestingly, we’ve known for decades that one of the very first symptoms of Alzheimer’s is the loss of smell and taste, so and that was independent of a viral infection like Covid, so there is some connection to that part of the brain that does contribute to overall dementia risk,” said Dr. McNab.

The way our brains are wired, Dr. McNab says a smell will oftentimes trigger a memory from our past.

“How we process our memories is definitely related to the Olfactory Lobe, our sense of smell, so that’s always been there, so I think it just intuitively makes sense to a lot of us that if you damage that part of the brain, that determines the smelling sensation, that it’s already a part of the machinery of our memory,” he added.

Because COVID has only been around for a few years, there’s simply not enough data to determine if there is, for sure, a link between the two. Until long-term studies are done and do draw a conclusive correlation, he says people with covid symptoms like he had should control the part of their health they can.

“Stress management, a good amount of sleep, a very healthy diet that is focussed on whole foods and plant-based regimes, anything that reduces your cardiovascular risk, keeping control of your blood pressure and cholesterol, and of course, if you have diabetes, the more tightly you control that, the lower your risk is going to be,” said Dr. McNab.