Covid survivors often complain of brain fog, memory issues, depression, stress and anxiety but according to a latest study published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease which was conducted on more than 6 million people aged 65 years or older, Covid-19 has been linked to an increased risk of new-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (Also read: Can Alzheimer’s begin in 20s? Here are signs of early onset Alzheimer’s disease)
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills and as it progresses one loses the ability to carry out the simplest tasks and need assistance from others. It is the most common form of dementia.
According to this latest study, the elderly Covid patients may have an increased risk of 50-80% compared to others of developing the disease a year after recovering from Covid. The study also noted that the risk was even more for females older than 85 years.
“Alzheimer’s disease with new onset is substantially more likely in people who have COVID-19 (AD). According to scientists, the Covid-19 infection may lead to inflammation, which could exacerbate any existing problems in the brain,” says Dr Pankaj Agarwal, Senior Consultant – Neurology, Head, Movement Disorders Clinic and In-Charge, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) at Global Hospital Parel, Mumbai.
Dr Agarwal says the immune system of the brain reacts differently to the pathology involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These findings may be influenced by those who already had Alzheimer’s when they were infected but had not yet sought a formal diagnosis because the epidemic caused significant delays for people seeking medical diagnoses like Alzheimer’s,” says the neurologist.
WOMEN MORE AT ALZHEIMER’S RISK THAN MEN
Women are genetically more predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease than men but this can be offset by healthy lifestyle changes like physical activity and diet.
“Alzheimer’s illness disproportionately affects women (AD). There are several possible scientific and sociological explanations for why more women than males are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. While many risk factors, like age or genes, cannot be changed, others, like high blood pressure and inactivity, can typically be altered by adopting the proper healthy lifestyle adjustments. Including physical activity in your everyday routine is one such thing. Exercise improves the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which benefits brain cells,” says Dr Agarwal.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
“A person should have moderate to rigorous physical activity which means at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Avoiding smoking and alcohol intake can also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. For avoiding Alzheimer’s, a MIND diet which is a combination of Mediterranean and DASH diets must be followed. Apart from this a person should be undergoing cognitive training which includes a series of brain exercises, doing puzzles and games such as sudoku and other such activities,” says Dr. Manish Gupta, Associate Director, Department of Neurology, Jaypee Hospital, Noida.