Some people infected with coronavirus might have long-term “cognitive deficits” comparable to the brain aging by 10 years, a new study has found. Researchers at Imperial College London looked at more than 84,000 people who had recovered from COVID19, finding that in some cases, patients had significant cognitive declines that lasted for months. Read on for more of his warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Researchers found “significant cognitive defects”
The cognitive declines were especially pronounced in people who’d been severely ill but were evident in mild cases as well. People who had been placed on a ventilator at some point during their illness showed cognitive decline that was equivalent to a person 10 years older, on average.
“There is evidence that COVID-19 may cause long-term health changes past acute symptoms, termed ‘long COVID’. Our analyses … align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19,” the researchers wrote. “People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits.”
Study subjects took tests that measured spatial memory, attention, ability to solve problems, and how they processed emotions. Compared to a control group that hadn’t been sick, the COVID patients performed worse.
“These results should act as a clarion call for more detailed research investigating the basis of cognitive deficits in people who have survived SARS-COV-2 infection,” the authors wrote.
Previous studies have found a worrying association between the coronavirus and long-lasting neurological issues. In July, a study in The Lancet said that 55% of COVID patients surveyed reported neurological problems lasting more than three months after their diagnosis. Symptoms included confusion, brain fog, an inability to focus, personality changes, insomnia and loss of taste and/or smell. The study’s authors warned that the COVID pandemic might result in an “epidemic of brain damage,” a phenomenon that occurred after the 1918 flu pandemic.
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Many sources of brain damage possible
As for what might cause the neurological damage, scientists still aren’t sure. But several other studies indicate that COVID-19 may be a vascular disease that attacks and damages blood vessels. This could cause inflammation in the brain, stroke or loss of blood flow, which might explain the symptoms. Another theory is that COVID doesn’t enter the brain but causes an immune system overreaction that leads to neurological damage.
According to the journal Nature, a June study of 125 people in the United Kingdom who’d had COVID found that 62% of them had some impairment of the brain’s blood supply, such as strokes or hemorrhages, and 31% had altered mental states, such as confusion, sometimes accompanied by encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
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How to stay healthy
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.