SEPTEMBER 17, 2022
People with COVID-19 were at significantly increased risk for new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease within a year after their initial diagnosis, the study found. File Photo by sfam_photo/Shutterstock
Scientists have found a link between COVID-19 and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in people over 65, according to new research at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
“People with COVID-19 were at significantly increased risk for new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease within 360 days after the initial COVID-19 diagnosis,” the study’s authors disclosed this week in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers studied the medical files of more than 6.2 million adults over the age of 65. The chances of Alzheimer’s nearly doubled (0.35% to 0.68%) in that age group in the year following a COVID-19 diagnosis.
They found the risk of developing Alzheimer’s — the most common type of dementia — was especially high in those over the age of 85 and in women who had contracted COVID-19.
At this point, it is unclear if COVID-19 triggers new-onset Alzheimer’s or simply accelerates its emergence.
Researchers used the Kaplan-Meier analysis to estimate the probability of new Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Scientist Pamela Davis of Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine said she believes COVID-19 could cause a substantial wave of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Photo courtesy Case Western Reserve School of Medicine
“Since infection with SARS-CoV2 has been associated with central nervous system abnormalities including inflammation, we wanted to test whether, even in the short term, COVID could lead to increased diagnoses,” study co-author Pamela Davis told the Case Western website.
The results paint a troubling picture, she said.
“If this increase in new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease is sustained, the wave of patients with a disease currently without a cure will be substantial, and could further strain our long-term care resources,” Davis said.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and challenging disease, and we thought we had turned some of the tide on it by reducing general risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Now, so many people in the U.S. have had COVID and the long-term consequences of COVID are still emerging. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability.”