Study: Senior COVID patients may have increased risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers studied the health records of more than 6 million seniors to find possible links between coronavirus infection and cognitive function. (CNN, CDC)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 12:29 PM MST
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(CNN) - Seniors age 65 and older who have had COVID-19 may have a much higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a year, according to a new large-scale study.

Researchers studied the health records of more than 6 million seniors to find possible links between coronavirus infection and cognitive function.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Pamela Davis, says the seniors studied who got COVID-19 were diagnosed in the first year of the pandemic, before antivirals and before most people were fully vaccinated.

“And then we asked, in people over 65, is there any increased rate of new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in those who had COVID? And there was,” Davis said.

Researchers found the group had a substantially higher risk of getting a new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease within roughly a year of COVID-19 compared to those without a documented coronavirus infection.

Seniors over age 85 and women studied in the group were found to have an even higher risk.

”We were a little bit surprised how much of an increased hazard there was for developing Alzheimer’s disease in such a short period of time,” Davis said.

While COVID-19 has not been found to cause Alzheimer’s, Davis says the research shows they are linked. She says the inflammation sometimes caused by COVID-19 may be a risk factor.

“There are many possibilities. Of course, the one that’s most worrisome is that COVID itself interacts with the brain and either accelerates or tips people over into a dementia kind of a profile,” Davis said.