If you’ve recovered from a “mild” coronavirus case, you’re probably thanking your lucky stars right now. And I don’t blame you.
After what we’ve seen can happen with this virus, I would be feeling relieved too.
But new research has raised a red flag we ALL need to be aware of. Because whether you’ve managed to dodge COVID so far, or you’re among the millions who’ve already recovered from it, we’re all at risk.
Researchers have found folks who fight and recover from even a mild case of COVID-19 (even one they barely felt) may not be done with the virus just yet. Because COVID can leave behind a frightening form of damage where you least expect it.
It turns out the coronavirus could cause your brain to shrink, triggering cognitive problems once you’ve recovered from the infection.
Reported symptoms include…
- brain fog
- memory loss
- struggles to focus
- difficulties concentrating
And that leads to one of the nastiest tricks this virus has up its sleeve. Because if you’re a little older, neither you nor your doc will likely blame COVID-19 for your brain slips.
After all, you’ve already recovered from that, right? So you’ll blame your age, instead.
But I’ve got the scoop on how to spot COVID-linked brain damage. I’ll clue you in on what to look for and how to help protect yourself.
Help protect yourself from ‘COVID brain’
I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about “long COVID” by now. They use the term for the lingering symptoms many folks feel in the weeks, months or even years after a battle with the coronavirus.
But we’re just starting to hear about the so-called “COVID brain” that can strike after infection, especially in seniors. Now, the new study shows how it happens.
And in some ways, it has frightening similarities to the onset of cognitive decline and dementia. It’s a condition called “brain shrink.”
Before I go any further, I have to say that all of our brains shrink a little as we get older. But more shrink usually means more cognitive problems. And that’s what COVID seems to deliver… MORE shrink.
The new study compared brain scans of volunteers before the pandemic to scans taken after. And in the folks who had recovered from a coronavirus infection, the researchers spotted something disturbing.
Volunteers who had COVID-19 also had an alarmingly rapid brain shrink. In the five months after COVID-19, they had the kind of shrinkage normally associated with up to six years of aging.
The folks who had recovered from COVID also did worse on key cognitive tests, especially ones measuring attention and mental flexibility.
There’s an excellent chance this could help explain the increasing rate of cognitive decline seen in coronavirus survivors. Experts behind a second new study predict this brain shrink effect will lead to a jump in dementia cases in the coming years.
Avoiding COVID-linked cognitive decline
So what can you do about this disturbing threat?
First, if you haven’t had a COVID-19 infection yet, try to keep it that way. Continue to use caution whenever case levels rise in your area.
Masking mandates have been dropped in many places. But YOU can still choose to mask when it’s appropriate. I still wear one in stores myself.
Treat your mask like you do your umbrella. When it’s going to rain, you grab your umbrella on the way out the door. When COVID cases are up in your area… or you’re going to be spending more time indoors in crowds… grab your mask when you head out.
Plus, if you’re not already vaccinated, seriously consider getting the shots. And if you are vaccinated, be sure to get your booster shot since protection from the first round starts to drop after about three months.
If you have had a COVID-19 infection, experts haven’t found a surefire way yet to fight “long COVID” symptoms or the “COVID brain shrink” uncovered in the new study. But they’re searching for answers.
In the meantime, it makes sense to give our brains all the support we can to help them remain healthy. Past studies on seniors facing cognitive struggles have found that in some cases, high-dose B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids may help slow the brain shrink related to normal aging.
They’re both excellent supplements to consider, even without the COVID threat. And these nutrients may turn out to be even more important down the road as we learn more about COVID-related brain shrink.
And be sure to check out my report from earlier this year, “Fight brain shrink eating your favorite foods.”
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