Could COVID-19 exposure increase your risk of dementia?

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Could exposure to the coronavirus increase your risk of developing dementia? An international group of researchers say it’s a possibility.

From your lungs to your digestive system, the coronavirus travels around the body, and even your brain, heart, and blood vessels aren’t safe.

“For the central nervous system, it appeared to enter through the nose and travel into the system through the olfactory bulb. This then impacted cardiorespiratory centers,” said Dr. Neelum Aggarwal, a neurologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“And it basically caused multiple changes within the system for the blood and into the blood vessels. This led to microhemorrhages and strokes.”

Aggarwal said damaging those systems could make you more likely to develop dementia.

Cardiovascular risk factors and cerebrovascular risk factors really figure prominently in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. So the link now between COVID exposure, its effect on the brain, and heightened AD risk is now starting to become more apparent.”

Another concern is the virus’s ability to impact our senses of smell and taste.

“We know that most chronic neurodegenerative diseases have an early and prominent association with loss of smell,” said Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin, Ph.D., Long School of Medicine, UT Health San Antonio.

When asked if exposure to COVID-19 could create a rise in dementia cases, de Erausquin said, “briefly, the answer is yes.”

The Alzheimer’s Association, the World Health Organization and other scientific leaders from around the world are joining forces to study the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the brain.

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