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Seniors who had the coronavirus had a substantially higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a year, according to a recent study.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, doesn’t show that the coronavirus causes Alzheimer’s, but it adds to the growing body of research linking the virus to cognitive function.

“In the Alzheimer’s disease brain, the pathology starts to build up about 20 years before the symptoms begin,” said Dr. David Holtzman, a neurologist who leads a research lab focused on Alzheimer’s disease at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, CNN reported.

Holtzman, who wasn’t involved in the study, said people would have to be monitored for decades after a coronavirus infection to prove it as a cause. Nevertheless, a coronavirus infection may trigger inflammation that may be taking place in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, he said.

Specifically, the study found that there were seven new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease for every 1,000 seniors who had a documented case of the coronavirus in the past year compared with about five new diagnoses for every 1,000 who did not, CNN reported.

Dr. Pamela Davis, a research professor at Case Western Reserve University, co-authored the study. Davis said the link between Alzheimer’s and the coronavirus needs more study because it could have serious implications for the nation’s health system in the future.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and challenging disease, and we thought we had turned some of the tides on it by reducing general risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle,” Davis said, CNN reported. “Now, with so many people in the U.S. have had COVID, and the long-term consequences of Covid are still emerging. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability.”

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