Some things are finally starting to get back to normal. So you might think you’re done with the coronavirus. But it turns out it may not be done with you.
If you caught COVID-19 at any point in the past year and a half, there’s something you need to watch out for. And that’s true, even if you simply suspect you may have had the infection in the early days when testing was limited.
The coronavirus itself could be long gone from your body. You may even be one of the lucky ones who didn’t have a serious battle with the bug.
But despite being fully vaxxed and ready to FINALLY relax one of the infections ugliest parting gifts might still be stalking you.
COVID-19 may not have caused any obvious lasting damage. But new research finds it could still be messing with your brain and mucking with your memory.
Aging may not be behind your memory problems
You might be tempted to blame aging for those little brain slips. After all, you’re another year older. And everyone insists it’s normal for some things to slow down with the passing years.
But if you find yourself truly struggling with so-called “senior moments,” don’t be so sure. Those memory slips may be a leftover from your infection.
As the new study finds, more than half of older adults hospitalized for mild to moderate COVID-19 infection struggle with cognitive issues at least two months after being discharged.
Many of the survivors battle short-term memory loss and cognitive decline. Some also have toxic-metabolic encephalopathy, a condition that develops when an infection leads to brain damage.
Even worse, some survivors have been found to have higher levels of the damaged brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
But the new study also hints at a potential solution. And the good news is it is one that you could put to work at home as you continue to recover from the infection.
The key is oxygen. Many folks struggle to breathe during severe COVID-19 infections. If you or a loved one were hospitalized for the virus you almost certainly were given supplemental oxygen.
But the new study finds you might still need some help even after you’ve supposedly recovered. It turns out seniors with memory problems after COVID-19 tend to have lingering issues with oxygen even when they don’t realize it.
Improving oxygen saturation could help
Every organ in your body needs oxygen, of course. But maintaining a healthy blood oxygen level is absolutely crucial to good brain function.
Your brain is just 2 percent of your overall body weight. But it sucks up between 20 and 25 percent of your body’s oxygen intake. If your levels are low, your brain will slow, and your memory can suffer.
In the new study, that’s exactly what happened. The patients who had cognitive struggles after COVID-19 infection also had measurably lower oxygen saturation levels on the six-minute walking test.
You can test your own oxygen saturation at home with a pulse oximeter. If you’re a long-time Healthier Talk reader, you might have already picked one up when I suggested it in May of last year. If so, go ahead and dig the device back out of the junk drawer and drop in some fresh batteries.
Some smartwatches can check oxygen saturation levels too. And, of course, if your doctor suspects low oxygen is causing the memory struggles he can arrange for that six-minute test for you too.
Readings between 90 and 92 percent are classified as low oxygen. Below that, you should seek out medical attention right away.
If you find your oxygen saturation IS running low, you may need supplemental oxygen at home, at least for a little while. Then, work with your doctor on restoring your body’s ability to suck up enough oxygen to feed your brain and the rest of your organs.
Improving your oxygen (and memory) issues could be as simple as getting a little more active each day. Or you might find working with a respiratory therapist to learn some breathing exercises will help speed your recovery.