javascript hit counter

Can COVID cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Image of a couple looking out of a window

A recent study of electronic health records from more than 6 million Americans suggests that adults over 65 with a history of COVID-19 are at significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While the study adds to growing concerns about the correlation between coronavirus and brain function, it’s limited and doesn’t show that COVID-19 directly causes Alzheimer’s.

“There’s bound to be some inaccuracy when you simply use diagnostic codes from electronic medical records for your data set,” says Daniel Murman, MD, board-certified neurologist. “For example, some of these patients may have already shown signs of Alzheimer’s before contracting COVID-19. COVID may have just brought more people to the doctor in recent years. We really don’t know.”

Still, Alzheimer’s disease is undoubtedly on the rise. Approximately 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, and that number is expected to rise to 12.7 million by 2050. Read on to learn more about how COVID-19 affects brain function and what to do if you are suffering from persistent memory loss.

How COVID-19 affects the brain

During a viral infection like COVID-19, several mechanisms occur that can be associated with neurological disorders. When viruses and microorganisms enter your body, they can attack your nervous system. This direct infection can cause an inflammatory response throughout the body that can affect brain function.

Brain fog, or difficulty concentrating, is a common long-term COVID-19 symptom and can last for weeks. Other long-standing COVID symptoms include cognitive problems, fatigue, and behavioral problems — all of which can be signs of conditions that mimic Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, people with a history of certain medical conditions tend to have a more difficult time with COVID-19. As a result, they may be more likely to develop complications, including neurological problems. Ultimately, however, we still don’t know much about how COVID-19 affects the body in the long term.

“There is increasing research suggesting that COVID-19 may have short-term effects on the brain, but more research needs to be done to determine the long-term effects,” says Dr. Murman.

Causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease

The following factors can significantly increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease:

  1. Age – Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 years and older. After the age of 65, your risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years. By age 85, the risk reaches nearly a third, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
  2. family history – If you have a family member with Alzheimer’s, you are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases if you have more than one family member with the disease.
  3. inheritance – Two categories of genes affect whether a person will develop a disease: risk genes, which increase the risk of developing the disease, and deterministic genes, which cause the disease. Alzheimer’s genes have been found in both categories.
  4. History of Head Injury – There is a link between head injuries, such as from falls or contact sports, and future risk of dementia.
  5. heart health – Some evidence links brain health to heart health, since the brain is nourished by the body’s blood vessels and the heart is responsible for pumping blood through these vessels.
  6. General Health – Research suggests that healthy lifestyle strategies, such as Things like a Mediterranean diet, regular exercise, and managing stress can help keep your brain healthy.

“A healthy lifestyle makes you more resilient to many health problems, including neurological diseases,” says Dr. Murman.

Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease

The most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  • Memory loss that interferes with daily living
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Problems understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • Trouble speaking or writing
  • misplace things
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • mood and behavior changes

If you consistently have any of the above signs, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your GP. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist or specialist who treats brain disorders. Neurologists sometimes diagnose Alzheimer’s based on changes in behavior or responses to memory tests. They may also use diagnostic tests or brain imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, to look for structural changes. In any case, early diagnosis can help you find treatments that will provide relief and allow you to maintain a degree of independence.

Are you experiencing signs of Alzheimer’s or Dementia?
Phone call 800,922,0000 get checked today.