Does COVID Raise the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

covid and Alzheimers

The coronavirus and all its variants have changed everything about our lives over the last few years. From lockdowns and social distancing to changes in the workplace and even the discovery of long COVID, the pandemic has touched every one of us in some way. Even today, though mask mandates are going away and we’re starting to resume our everyday lives, The Atlantic reports that the country is still seeing 400 deaths per day from COVID – three times more than the average deaths from flu in the United States.

There are numerous health issues that can arise from a COVID infection. Those who survive it can face serious health consequences later. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that seniors aged 65 and older who contracted COVID had an almost 70% greater chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within one year after their infection than those who didn’t have the infection. Elderly individuals over the age of 85 were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Women in those age groups faced a much higher risk than men of developing Alzheimer’s after a COVID diagnosis.

Why Does COVID Increase the Risk of Alzheimer’s?

Though this was a large-scale study that took into account over six million people, it’s still an early study – one that hasn’t had much time to survey all of the elderly who wound up with a COVID infection. However, there are some clear issues with COVID that can increase the odds of developing other problems. For instance, inflammation is common with a COVID infection, and that has been linked to the possibility of long COVID[1]. Inflammation has also been associated with Alzheimer’s and might be a key driver of the disease, according to Medical News Today.

In addition, many studies have found that “brain fog” is a component of COVID infections, which might be caused by changes in brain structure. Those changes might increase the risk of a variety of neurological issues, including dementia[2].

COVID is an infection that can come on quite suddenly and lead to immediate problems. That’s why it’s vitally important to be well-prepared for the possibility of contracting COVID and its associated issues. Selecting medical alert technology with fall detection can provide you with the peace of mind you need. If you do contract COVID and suffer the more severe side of the infection, you can rest assured that help is always a simple button press away and you’ll never have to face an emergency alone.

Other Potential Brain Issues Brought On by COVID

Brain fog, changes in brain structure, and even the higher risk of Alzheimer’s aren’t the only changes that can be dangerous in the aftermath of a COVID infection. If you do wind up with COVID, it’s important to not only take care of yourself during the infection, but to be alert for changes in physical and cognitive functioning in the months and even years afterward.

Robert Stevens, M.D. told Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2020 that at least half of the patients he was seeing with COVID-19 had neurological symptoms. These included:

·         Confusion

·         Loss of smell and taste

·         Headaches

·         Trouble focusing

·         Changes in behavior

·         Seizures

·         Stroke

·         Peripheral nerve issues

·         Loss of consciousness

Since these changes in the brain can be sudden and might even happen if you don’t have any other symptoms of COVID, it’s vitally important to be prepared. This is a very good argument for investing in a medical alert pendant, especially one that offers fall detection technology. The more prepared you are, the more likely you will be to stay protected if you do stumble, lose consciousness, or get confused.

The body of research around COVID has found four potential ways that the infection can lead to changes in the brain[3]:

·         The Inflammatory Response. As we discussed earlier, inflammation is a hallmark of COVID. This can happen when the immune system mounts a strong response to the virus but then continues to respond even when the infection itself is over.

·         Severe Brain Infection. In some cases, the virus that causes COVID has been found in spinal fluid and brain tissue. As with any infection in the brain, internal havoc can ensue. In fact, some researchers suggest that the loss of taste and smell might be due to the virus entering the olfactory bulb, which communicates with the brain about smell.

·         Problems with Blood Clots. There are many reported cases of blood clots in patients with COVID-19, and those clots can lead to stroke. Obviously a stroke can lead to serious problems with the brain.

·         Physiological Changes in the Body. The body and brain are deeply connected. The high fevers and low oxygen levels associated with serious bouts of COVID can affect the brain, leading to delirium, coma, and other brain dysfunctions.

How to Protect Yourself from COVID

The best way to protect yourself from the difficult effects of COVID is to not get infected at all. Though it can be tough to avoid all chances of infection, there are things you can do every day to reduce your risk. This is especially important for the elderly, as the risk of hospitalization and death increases with age[4].

·         Wash your hands. Washing your hands on a regular basis can reduce or eliminate the germs that lead to COVID-19, the flu, and many other viral infections. If you are in a situation where soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is made up of at least 60% alcohol.

·         Maintain social distancing. Staying six feet or more away from the next person is a good way to prevent the spread of droplets from coughs, sneezes, laughter, and even speaking to each other. This is much easier to do when outdoors in plenty of space, so avoid indoor areas if you can. A good example is choosing to dine on an outdoor patio instead of inside a restaurant.

·         Wear a mask indoors. If you are in a crowded indoor area, wear a mask. Though most places no longer require masks, it’s an individual choice that you can make for your own health. A mask is especially important if you are not fully vaccinated or boosted, but it is also a prudent move if you can’t be sure of the vaccination or booster status of those in the room with you.

·         Get vaccinated and boosted. The benefits of vaccination against COVID can’t be stressed enough. The CDC reports that seniors 65 years and older who are fully vaccinated are 94% less likely to be hospitalized. It also cuts down on your risk of severe infection. Boosters enhance and extend the protection you got from the vaccinations.

·         Understand that vaccination is not a guarantee. Getting vaccinated can clearly help you avoid severe illness and hospitalization, but no vaccine can prevent you from getting the virus. It will only make your odds of getting it less likely, and the effects may be less severe if you do get it. That’s why it’s so important to continue to practice good hand hygiene, wear a mask when in a crowded indoor area (especially if you have chronic conditions or a compromised immune system), and maintain social distancing when you can. 

·         Maintain good health habits. If you do get COVID, you want to be sure that you are as healthy as you can be so you can fight off the virus. That means keeping all your medical appointments, taking all your medications on time, keeping up with good lifestyle changes that your doctor has recommended, eating right and exercising on a regular basis. And as you get older, it’s a good idea to engage in fall prevention. Falling down can lead to serious physical consequences, including fractures and brain injuries. Fall prevention can include aging in place solutions, as well as the use of an emergency response solution that can allow you to reach out for help at the touch of a button.

Spotting the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

If you do wind up with COVID, don’t panic. Most COVID infections make you feel awful for a short while and then pass without any further problem. However, if you do have concerns about the possible long-term effects of a coronavirus infection, understanding the signs of Alzheimer’s disease may be helpful. Look out for these issues[5]:

·         Forgetting important dates and events, or asking the same question over and over

·         Difficulty with things you used to do easily, like paying the bills on time or following a recipe

·         Trouble with daily tasks, such as forgetting how to get to the store or having trouble making a grocery list before you go

·         Losing track of time and place, such as forgetting how you got to a certain place

·         Trouble with balance, reading, or judging distance

·         Problems with carrying on a conversation

·         Withdrawing from colleagues, friends, or family

·         Putting things in unusual places or being unable to retrace steps to find something

·         Poor judgment with things that used to be automatic, such as paying bills or bathing

·         Significant changes in mood or personality

Keep in mind that some of these things are normal – for instance, it’s not unusual for seniors to be unable to think of a particular word, forget to add something important to your grocery list, or lose something that you swore was right there a moment ago. It can even be normal to have an occasional issue with balance when you stand up or with simply not being in the mood to spend time with friends or family. It’s when these things begin to happen on a very regular basis that they could point to a problem.

If you are seeing symptoms that concern you, speak to your doctor about what is going on. Be proactive about your health, especially as you get older. Never hesitate to do what’s right for you, from choosing a medical alert watch with GPS and pedometer to keep you protected to reaching out to a medical professional about health concerns. Keeping yourself safe from things like the flu or COVID are essential to your well-being, as is talking to your doctor if you ever notice potential problems. Being proactive allows you to enjoy the peace of mind good health can bring!

Alert1 wishes you abundant health and safety!