The preliminary findings were reported at an Alzheimer’s Association meeting Thursday. Experts stress far more research is needed — and getting underway — to tell if COVID-19 might raise the risk of Alzheimer’s or other brain problems later in life, or if people eventually recover. One study of older adults in Argentina found a surprising amount of dementia-like changes in memory and thinking for at least six months after a bout with the coronavirus — regardless of the severity of their infection. Other researchers found Alzheimer’s-related proteins in the blood of New Yorkers whose COVID-19 triggered brain symptoms early on. The possibilities “are real and troubling,” but it’s too soon to know “whether this is really going to result in long-term cognitive change,” cautioned Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging.
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Researchers are trying to unravel why some COVID-19 survivors suffer “brain fog” and other problems that can last for months, and new findings suggest some worrisome overlaps with Alzheimer’s disease. July 29, 2021, 7:49 PM
Some hints about the risk come from a study tracking about 300 people in the Jujuy province of Argentina that kept a health registry of anyone tested for the virus, whether they had symptoms or not. Researchers combed the registry for people 60 and older who had no record of brain disorders prior to the pandemic and asked if they’d undergo cognitive testing. “It’s quite scary, if I have to put it bluntly,” said Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, who is leading the study. But protecting the brain from COVID-19 offers yet another reason to get vaccinated, she added.
“If you did have COVID, this does not necessarily mean that you will be impacted,” agreed the Alzheimer’s Association’s Heather Snyder. His agency wasn’t involved in Thursday’s research but has begun its own large study to try to find out.
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