Alzheimer’s risk nearly doubles in older adults with COVID, analysis shows –

A new study of 6.2 million adults finds that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease nearly doubles for older adults in the year following an attack of COVID-19.

If this increase in new Alzheimer’s diagnoses continues to follow up on COVID-19 cases, the resulting wave of disease could further strain already limited long-term care resources, the investigators said. Currently, 6.5 million Americans age 65 or older live with Alzheimer’s disease. And in 2020, 48% of nursing home residents will develop Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Women are in danger

In the study, researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland compared data for US residents 65 and older with and without COVID-19. After controlling for Alzheimer’s risk factors, people with COVID-19 were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s a year later.

They found that in the COVID-19 group, women 85 and older were most at risk.

Infections and dementia

“Factors that play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood, but two pieces considered important are prior infection, particularly viral infections, and inflammation,” co-author Pamela Davis, MD, said in a statement.

“Because SARS-CoV2 infection has been associated with central nervous system abnormalities including inflammation, we wanted to test whether COVID, even in the short term, can lead to increased diagnosis,” she added.

Study participants received medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021. They did not have a prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers controlled for factors such as age, other demographics, and negative socioeconomic determinants of health and comorbidities including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The case of the nursing home

Notably, the researchers did not control for nursing home stay status. While it is a risk factor for COVID-19, it is not a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, said first author Rong Xu, Ph.D., McKnight’s Clinical Daily.

Davis said doctors are optimistic that reducing general risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease will begin to have an impact on the spread of Alzheimer’s disease. “Now, many people in the United States have contracted COVID and the long-term consequences of COVID are still unfolding. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on disability in the future,” she said.

Study limitations include potential inaccuracies in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers wrote that this is unlikely to affect relative risks analyses, because all groups came from the same data set.

They said investigators plan long-term follow-up and will also study the impact of COVID-19 on other types of dementia, and subpopulations that may be most at risk.

full results Posted in Alzheimer’s Disease Journal.

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