The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and previous infection with COVID:
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 6,245,282 people between February 2, 2020 and May 30, 2021. They were people 65 years of age or older and who “He had no prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.”
They were divided into two groups or cohorts. Group 1 contracted COVID-19 during this period of time. There was 410,748 people in this COVID cohort. Group 2 did no catch covid. There was 5,834,534 people in this “control” cohort.
They then sliced and diced the data to see who developed a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease between 2/2/2020 and 5/30/2021.
Here’s the bottom line:
“Older adults with COVID-19 had a significantly higher risk of receiving a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease with higher risk in people ≥85 years and in women.”
The absolute numbers are disconcerting, but not alarming. Generally, approx 1,900 about 400,000 people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the non-Covid cohort. In the COVID cohort, approx 2,700 Almost 400,000 people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This is an increased relative risk 69%.
However, older women (aged 85 and over) were particularly vulnerable. Your relative risk of developing a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease [AD] after COVID infection 89% greater than a similar group of older women who did not get COVID. The absolute figures were 812 AD cases of 61,032 who did not suffer from the coronavirus compared to 1,189 cases of 59,110 women who got COVID.
The authors conclude:
“Our findings call for research to understand the underlying mechanisms and continued monitoring of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on Alzheimer’s disease.”
Brain fog and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
We have received many comments on this website that COVID is not a big deal. There are still people who insist that the flu is worse. But most people who get the flu don’t have to live with persistent symptoms once they get over the infection.
You may have heard about the symptoms of the long COVID. Along with fatigue and shortness of breath, brain fog ranks high on the list of common complaints. Visitors to this website have described what it’s like:
Penny describes symptoms of long COVID and brain fog:
“Healthcare professionals don’t know exactly how to treat long-term carriers of COVID. I had COVID in December 2021. Initially it looked like a bad case of bronchitis. I later tested positive for COVID.
“Since then, I’ve been dealing with chest pain, headaches and brain fog. Makes me feel super stupid! I have to write everything down. I repeat myself and my family gets angry. My taste has been off for months, so I’m asking others to sample my cooking.
“My muscles ache and my joints ache to the point of tears. I have to push myself to get through each day. I’m so exhausted when I wake up and have to force myself to get up to walk my dogs . I wonder when this hell will end? This is not living. It exists.”
Marsha describes the difference between flu and long-term COVID:
“I had COVID during January and February 2020. It wasn’t the flu. There are people who don’t suffer from COVID, but I do. With the normal flu I’m pretty sick for about 4-5 days. I have a fever, I stay in bed and sleep. For about three weeks I might not feel 100%, but after that, I’m back to normal.
“With COVID, I was sick for about 2 months and had recurring symptoms for about 2 years! The COVID wasn’t just a respiratory virus. It seemed to attack every cell in my body. It seemed to destroy my ability to digest food and absorb nutrients, so it was impossible to heal me.
“The fatigue was the worst I have ever known and it lasted for months. I passed out. My face was numb around my mouth for over a year; I was hoarse for over a year, with kidney symptoms and UTI 4 months later. 20% of my hair fell out. Even a year later, if I talked too much it felt like I was being punched in the throat.
“During the first part of COVID, I had a period where my fingertips were purple. I also had my toes from COVID. I was terribly dizzy for 21 months. On top of that, I had brain fog. There there are things to this day that I don’t remember and it lasted 21 months. I lost my sense of smell and taste and smelled things that just weren’t there. This virus attacked my whole body. It’s not the seasonal flu.”
Patty experienced brain fog and worried about dementia:
“I probably got COVID in March 2020. At that time there were no tests available for COVID unless you were admitted to the hospital with a serious illness. My case was relatively mild, but I experienced terrible brain fog. I couldn’t concentrate well enough to organize a simple budget and pay a few bills. It wasn’t a very complex task, but I couldn’t keep the thoughts in my head long enough to make sure I wasn’t committing errors”.
“I still feel like I have to be careful with some tasks, but I had some degree of attention loss even before the COVID hit. I had asked my primary doctor at the time if I was suffering from early onset dementia, but he said no”.
Chris worries about his cognitive ability after COVID:
“I got COVID in February 2021. I had an extreme cough, breathing problems, headache and fatigue. After recovery, I experienced loss of smell and taste as well as brain fog. More than a year later, I have regained some sense of smell, but I still feel a lack of taste.
“To relax, I like to play solitaire and other online card games. After recovery, I found myself staring at the screen thinking, what should I do? This has improved over time; however, I still experience blank moments and forget what I’m doing. My ability to concentrate has also decreased. It’s very worrying!”
COVID and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
Researchers do not know whether the coronavirus causes neurodegeneration or accelerates a process that is already underway. A small study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and dementia (May, 2022) is titled:
“Alzheimer-like signaling in the brains of patients with COVID-19”
Here’s the gist of what they found:
“The mechanisms leading to the cognitive impairment associated with COVID-19 are not well understood.
“In addition to respiratory and cardiac manifestations, approximately one-third of patients with COVID-19 have been reported to develop neurological symptoms, including headache, altered consciousness, and paresthesias. Edema of the brain tissue, stroke, neuronal degeneration and neuronal encephalitis In a recent study, diffuse neuronal inflammatory markers were found in more than 80% of the brains of patients with COVID-19, processes that could contribute to the observed neurological symptoms.
“Here we show that SARSCoV2 infection is associated with adrenergic and oxidative stress and activation of the TGF-β signaling pathway in the brains of patients who have succumbed to COVID-19. A consequence of this state hyperadrenergic and oxidative is the development of tau pathology normally associated with AD. [Alzheimer’s disease]”.
Another epidemiological study published in Alzheimer’s and dementia (August 2021): concluded:
“Based on analyzes of a nationwide patient EHR [electronic health record] database in the United States we show that patients with dementia had a significantly increased risk of COVID-19 compared to patients without dementia.”
Case investigators share their thoughts on COVID and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
The study published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (September 13, 2022) is epidemiological. It cannot establish cause and effect. However, it is worrying.
The Washington Post (September 16, 2022) quotes Case Western Reserve researchers:
“We know that COVID can affect the brain, but I don’t think anyone has looked at new Alzheimer’s diagnoses,” said Pamela Davis, one of the study’s co-authors and a research professor at the University School of Medicine. Case Western Reserve University.. Colleague Rong Xu said he expected to see some increase among elderly people sickened by covid, but was surprised “by the extent of the increase and how quickly it happened” .
Is this a tempest in a teapot?
We suspect that we get a lot of pushback from visitors who still think that COVID is not a big deal. They will dismiss the Case Western Reserve study as a single report. They would be wrong!
Here is an article we wrote in July 2022 titled:
Will COVID-19 increase the risk of later dementia?
Neurologists worry that SARS-CoV-2 infection may affect the brain and increase the chance of later dementia as a result.
It was based on data from Denmark (Frontiers in Neurology, June 23, 2022). We also talk about the search for Argentina.
“…analyzed data from more than 400 people over the age of 60 who had recovered from COVID-19. Of these, about 60 percent showed evidence of cognitive impairment, even if their initial infections were mild.”
To read our entire article, here is a link.
If the association between long-term COVID and Alzheimer’s disease is confirmed, the lasting impact of the coronavirus could be felt for many years. Remember, we are approaching 100 million COVID infections in the US.
Some researchers estimate that 10% to 30% of people who contract COVID-19 experience some long-term COVID symptoms. How many will be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease is anyone’s guess. Even if it’s a very small percentage of 100 million, it’s still a potentially scary number.
And you? Have you got COVID? Have you experienced any long-lasting symptoms? What about brain fog? Please share your experience in the comment section below.
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