Coronavirus: New study suggests virus can cause 20 years’ worth of ageing

Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children

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A new study, the first of its kind, conducted by Cambridge University and Imperial College London have found COVID-19 can cause the equivalent of 20 years of ageing to the brain.

They found cognitive issues were worse for those who were under mechanical ventilation due to the virus.

Researchers from the two universities estimated the cognitive decline experienced due to Covid is similar to the decline experienced by people between the ages of 50 and 70.

20 years of cognitive ageing is the equivalent of the loss of 10 IQ points.

Results from the study form part of a growing body of evidence demonstrating the impact of Covid on the brain.

Brain fog has been one of the most common symptoms experienced by patients as a result of an infection by a virus that has killed close to 200,000 people in the UK.

Other cognitive issues reported by patients include:
• Poor sleep
• Anxiety
• Problems recalling words
• Fatigue.

Furthermore, a recent study found one seventh of patients have problems remembering and learning new tasks as well as problems with concentrating and decision making 12 weeks after infection.

Speaking about the results of the study, the University of Cambridge’s Professor David Menon said: “Cognitive impairment is common to a wide range of neurological disorders, including dementia, and even routine ageing, but the patterns we saw – the cognitive ‘fingerprint’ of COVID-19 – was distinct from all of these.”

Professor Menon added such as the impact on the brain of Covid that “some of these individuals will never fully recover”.

Researchers said several factors could cause cognitive deficits including inadequate blood oxygen supply to the brain.

Adam Hampshire, the author of the study, added: “Around 40,000 people have been through intensive care with Covid-19 in England alone and many more will have been very sick, but not admitted to hospital.

Covid is known not just to have an impact on the brain but the heart too.

Studies suggest it can increase a person’s risk of stroke, heart failure, and heart attack by over 50 percent.

As a result, the scientific community is calling for more resources to be put into long Covid clinics so patients can be treated.

Calls too are coming for more effort to be put into finding a cure for the condition.

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