The risk of contracting COVID-19 is twice as high for people with dementia, compared to their counterparts without the disease, according to an analysis of electronic health records for more than 61 million adults. The risk is even greater for Black patients with dementia, for who have three times the risk of being diagnosed with the virus.
The findings stood, said researchers, even after adjusting for nursing home residence, comorbidities, and known COVID-19 risk factors. These included obesity, asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers suggested that brain changes associated with dementia, such as a leaky blood-brain barrier, impaired cerebral blood flow, and damaged endothelium may predispose patients with dementia to COVID-19. At the same time, memory/cognitive impairments may disrupt a person’s ability to comply with infection prevention measures such as masking and physical distancing.
The type of dementia patients have also may contribute to risk. The study showed that those with vascular dementia appeared to have the highest risk, followed by presenile dementia, senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic dementia.
“It remains unknown how race and other demographic factors such as age and sex affect the risk of COVID-19 in patients with dementia,” the authors say. However, they note, “These findings highlight the need to protect patients with dementia as part of the strategy to control the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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