Covid may speed up dementia progression: Tips to take care of brain

The Covid-19 scare has resurfaced, so people have started masking up and taking precautions. It seems like people with dementia need to be a little more careful. That’s because a new study has found that Covid-19 infection plays a role in speeding up dementia progression. The study, which was conducted in West Bengal and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, found that participants with the neurodegenerative condition experienced rapidly progressive dementia after being infected with SARS-CoV-2. Read on to find out how people can take care of their brain.

To know more about it, HealthShots connected with Dr Jaideep Bansal, Director and Head Of Department, Neurology – Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, Delhi and Dr Prithvi Giri, consultant neurology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital Jaipur.

What is dementia?

Dementia is disease of brain that can interfere with daily activities. Be it memory, attention, reading, writing, decision-making, judgement, social interaction, understanding or calculations, everything gets affected when people have dementia. Dr Bansal says that this happens because there is gradual deterioration in cognitive function.

Covid 19 and dementia
Dementia patients must be more careful during Covid-19 surge. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Dementia and Covid

It has been over three years and we are still seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases. It is now well established that many people who contracted Covid-19 infection had a lot of neurological symptoms, especially cognitive disturbances. These neurocognitive symptoms may include the following:

• Brain fog (the ability to think clearly reduces)
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Forgetfulness
• Poor concentration
• Sleep disturbances
• Mood swings.

Dr Bansal says it has been investigated thoroughly that Covid-19 affects neurocognitive function and increased risk of dementia, especially in people who already have the neurodegenerative disease.

Ways to take care of brain health after Covid-19

After you get well, you can do the following to take care of brain health –

1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

You should stop being an advocate of sedentary lifestyle and start exercising regularly and get adequate sleep, says Dr Giri.

2. Eat well

Focus on healthy eating and include green leafy vegetables and fruits like kiwi, apricot, pineapple, orange. You can have nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews and peanuts that are rich in fats, magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin B. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts are some more healthy options, says Dr Bansal.

Covid 19 and dementia
Keep your brain active. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Stay mentally active

It’s not just physical health, but also your mental health that you should think of. Engage in activities that challenge the brain, such as learning a new skill or hobby, suggests Dr Giri.

4. Manage stress

Life can be quite stressful, but you need to do something about it. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to manage stress.

5. Stay socially connected

Call up your friends and family members if you aren’t already doing it. This will help to fight isolation and loneliness that can affect your brain.

6. Monitor changes in cognitive function

Follow up with your doctor to monitor any changes in cognitive function and look for prompt medical attention if it’s needed.

What makes dementia progress quickly?

There are may factors that can make dementia progress quickly. Some of these include:

• Age
• Genetics
• Poor nutrition and lack of exercise
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Head injuries
• Chronic stress and depression.

Dr Giri warns that people with other health conditions should be more cautious as they may have a higher risk of developing dementia. For example, people with hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease should manage their conditions carefully to reduce their risk of developing dementia.

Tips to slow down dementia

Medications and therapies may be prescribed to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease, says Dr Giri. While there is no cure for dementia, there are several ways to slow down its progression. Here are some of the things you can do –

• Limit alcohol and drug use
• Reduce stress
• Get enough sleep

These lifestyle changes can help preserve cognitive function and improve quality of life for people with dementia.

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