Although SARS-CoV-2 was initially thought to be a respiratory virus, it is becoming clear that the virus has serious consequences for brain health. Many people have experienced it Neurological Signs – such as loss of taste and smell, headache and Memory and attention issues– When infected and the majority of people who develop Long covid Brain fog and cognitive problems such as reduced concentration.
Now, new research suggests that Covid may increase our risk of developing brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. A study published this month Journal of Alzheimer’s DiseaseIt has been found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is 50 to 80 percent higher in elderly people infected with Covid compared to people without Covid.
Doctors don’t think Covid directly causes Alzheimer’s as much as it masks or accelerates the disease. Scientists are still learning about the ways in which Covid affects our ability to learn, remember, focus and perceive, but studies show InfectionsIn general, not only in the short term, but also in the long term, it can have a significant impact on our cognitive function.
“These findings are not surprising to me, given the growing awareness that medical stressors, from surgery to urinary tract infections, can lead to sudden declines in cognitive abilities called ‘delirium’ or ‘encephalopathy.’ Continued Dementia Diagnosis”, Dr. Joshua Kahanassistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine told HuffPost.
People infected with covid have severe cognitive impairment
The researchers reviewed the health records of 6.2 million adults age 65 and older who received treatment between February 2020 and May 2020. At the start of the study, no one had a history of Alzheimer’s disease.
The individuals were divided into two groups: those with Covid (more than 400,000) and those without (about 5.8 million). The research team found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubled from 0.35% to 0.68% among people with Covid. The risk was highest in women 85 and older.
According to the researchers, it is unclear whether Covid directly contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease or accelerates the ongoing degenerative changes in the brain.
“This study shows that patients with dementia can be diagnosed early because of Covid, but it does not indicate that the infection itself causes dementia,” said Dr. Santosh Kesaria neurologist at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and regional medical director of the Providence Southern California Research Clinical Institute.
The researchers hope that future studies will uncover specific ways in which Covid affects brain function, so that more targeted treatments and prevention methods can be developed. Historically, it has been difficult for scientists to develop treatments that target cognition, according to Kahan.
Research is still in its early stages, with researchers investigating different drugs such as antivirals, stimulants, and corticosteroids, and it is not known how well these approaches improve awareness. “We haven’t firmly established the mechanisms of chronic COVID or Alzheimer’s,” Kahan said. Therefore, our treatment approach is limited,” he said.
How diseases like covid lead to cognitive decline
This isn’t the first study to find that. Infectious diseases They are associated with cognitive decline. As previous research has shown Pneumonia, Urinary tract diseases, Herpes virus infections, osteomyelitis And Cellulitis All are associated with a higher risk of dementia. According to Kahan, we know that COVID can lead to attention and major issues Processing speed In certain patients.
Some experts believe that cognitive decline is caused by a wide range of factors Swelling Some infections, including covid, can spread throughout the body. High standards Swelling They often go along with cognitive problems. According to Kesari, systemic inflammation caused by Covid can lead to brain inflammation – and Research Brain inflammation appears to be at the root of Alzheimer’s disease.
There is a possibility that proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease may accumulate in critically ill or hospitalized patients. some Research.
“More long-term follow-up is needed to see if these proteins persist and progress, as expected in Alzheimer’s disease,” Kahan said. Exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease is not known, which is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult for scientists to figure out how COVID leads to the disease, Kahan added.
Ultimately, while it’s clear that Covid and mental health are somehow connected, it will take more research — and time — to better understand how different diseases and infections affect brain health. “We are currently at a stage where data is accumulating that COVID-19 leads to cognitive impairment, but the mechanisms are not clear,” Kahan said.
How to alleviate cognitive decline after covid
Kahan said when he sees patients with severe cognitive decline after recovering from Covid, he often sends them to occupational and speech therapy to help strengthen the parts of their brains weakened by the infection. Current cognitive therapy It has been investigated As a treatment for post-Covid cognitive impairment, it could also help people develop new strategies to improve their cognitive abilities.
Kahan generally advises people to gradually build up their cognitive stamina post-Covid, rather than going from zero to 100 after recovery. A healthy diet, exercise, social interactions and stress management are critical aspects of maintaining cognitive function, Kesari said.
If cognitive problems persist, it is worth consulting with a doctor to see if there is something else.
“All patients should have a thorough physical to look for other contributing factors, such as sleep disturbances, psychological stress, metabolic disorders, vitamin deficiencies, all with specific treatments,” Kahan said.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is best known or available as of publication, but guidance may change as scientists learn more about the virus. please Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention The most updated recommendations.