Study: COVID-19 increases risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

A new study presented at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Vienna has found an increased risk of certain neurological disorders in patients who have had COVID-19.

In particular, those who recovered were 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In addition, they were 4.8 times more likely to have cerebral hemorrhage and 2.7 times more likely to develop ischemic stroke .

This data comes from an analysis of electronic health records for almost half of the total Danish population between 2020 and 2021.

Pardis Zarifkar of Copenhagen University Hospital notes that due to the huge prevalence of COVID-19, the baseline rates of neurodegenerative diseases could rise globally in the coming years.

The doctor added that with the exception of ischemic stroke, most neurological disorders after COVID-19 do not appear to be more common than after influenza or community-acquired bacterial pneumonia .

For many years, the best-known hypothesis explaining the link between viral infections and neurodegeneration was that inflammation caused by infection can either initiate or accelerate the development of neurological disease. A review article published back in 2012 suggested that repeated viral infections could trigger a “cascade of events” typically seen in the earliest stages of neurodegeneration.

Sarah Imarcio of the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK added that the neurological conditions that cause dementia are caused by a combination of factors, from genetic predisposition to age and environmental conditions. Therefore, COVID-19 potentially plays a small role in an individual’s overall risk of developing these diseases.

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