Don't be afraid of Alzheimer's after COVID-19

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According to a study, Alzheimer's can be the result of a COVID-19 infection. However, there is no undue reason for concern: the study does not point to a causal connection here.

The danger after a Getting Alzheimer’s from COVID-19 is no worse than getting the flu.

A study from Denmark caused a stir in the media. “Several nerve disorders are more common: According to a study, COVID-19 increases the risk of Alzheimer's” is the headline on the German broadcaster ntv. All of this is not entirely wrong, but a look at the study shows that there is no reason to panic.

The researchers analyzed the health data of almost three million Danes for various neurological diseases after a COVID-19 checked for infection.

But that's not all. The scientists also checked in people suffering from influenza and bacterial pneumonia whether they had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease or suffering a stroke as a result.

The result: Yes, about six to 12 months after a COVID-19 infection, the risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia or Parkinson's syndrome is greater. However, the risk of this is just as great after another respiratory disease such as influenza or bacterial pneumonia.

The only exceptions are strokes and thrombosis – the risk of this increases for people after a COVID infection compared to other respiratory diseases indeed.

Anyone who develops Alzheimer's after COVID-19 is of course not reassured that it could have happened in the same way after the flu.

Fear of Alzheimer's justified?

So do we have to be afraid of getting a disease like Alzheimer's after a COVID infection?

“I don't think that can be deduced from this study,” says Peter Berlit, Secretary General of the German Society for neurology. “This is a population-based, statistical study that is not suitable for proving a causal relationship between a COVID-19 infection and the occurrence of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. The methodology of the study does not provide that.”

In other words: The Danish study does not prove that the corona infection is actually the cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Infections in themselves increase the risk of Alzheimer's

Precisely because the risk of neurodegenerative According to the study, diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are not higher after a corona infection than with other respiratory diseases, it is probably more the infection itself that increases the risk. “That's not really new,” says neurologist Berlit.

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“We know that dementia, a form of which is Alzheimer's, appears particularly frequently after special life events,” says Berlit. This also includes a severe infection, which may be accompanied by a stay in hospital.

“It seems that infections lead to Alzheimer's being deciphered,” says Berlit. “Probably there were already symptoms that were well compensated up to then.”

However, the situation is different in the case of strokes and thrombosis. “The risk is actually specifically increased with COVID-19,” says Berlit, thereby confirming the results of the study from Denmark.

The COVID-19 infection leads to a so-called coagulopathy, a blood clotting disorder that occurs in the case of COVID-19 is associated with increased blood clotting. This promotes strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary embolism and thrombosis – even a year after the infection.

Vaccination against the coronavirus can reduce the risk of all of these complications. Although it does not protect against infection with SARS-CoV-2, it does protect against severe courses that require hospitalization.

The risk of long-COVID complaints is also reduced by vaccination. “These complaints also include these neurological manifestations,” says Peter Berlit, meaning, for example, memory disorders, which can be a first symptom of Alzheimer's.

However, according to a study vaccination is less effective than hoped if The aim is to prevent long-COVID: The risk only drops by around 15 percent.

According to a study, vaccination against influenza also reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's in the four years following the peak , by 40 percent.

Anyone who is still afraid of developing Alzheimer's can turn a few screws themselves: No smoking, little alcohol, healthy eating and exercise.

“New data has shown that it is enough if older people People over the age of 65 walk briskly for half an hour every day,” says Berlit. This not only reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, but also of dementia.

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    Author: Fabian Schmidt