Medical notes this week…

Could a poor sense of smell be an early, sensitive sign for an impending downturn in health? A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that older people with a poor sense of smell have a nearly 50 percent increase in their risk of dying within 10 years, and that holds even in people who are healthy starting out. Poor sense of smell is known as an early sign for Parkinson’s disease and dementia, but researchers say those conditions explained less than a third of the death risk.

A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that older people with a poor sense of smell have a nearly 50 percent increase in their risk of dying within 10 years, and that holds even in people who are healthy starting out.

If you’re having surgery, most hospitals still tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before, even though that guideline was changed 20 years ago. Only a few hospitals follow the rule that allows patients to drink clear liquids up to two hours before surgery. One of them is the University of Illinois Hospital, where a task force has found that later liquids both improve outcomes and leave patients much happier.

And finally, teamwork is great, but only if team members also get a chance to step away and think on their own. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that when teams are trying to solve complex problems, they do better when they’re not always together, or not always connected by collaboration software like “slack.” Occasional breaks for individual reflection both boosted average performance and increased the odds of finding the best answer.

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