Getting Sick Often Could Put You At A Higher Risk Of Dementia

Pass the vitamin C tablets.
Sick young woman lying on the couch with eyes closes.
Stephanie Verhart via Getty Images
Sick young woman lying on the couch with eyes closes.

A staggering 1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their lifetime according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

However, according to a new study, getting sick often could affect how quickly the brain ages and increase risk of dementia or cognitive decline.

This study, conducted on elderly male mice found that repeated, intermittent experiences with moderate inflammation such as common illness like the flu or a seasonal head cold caused impaired cognition in the mice.

Of course, humans experience infections and inflammation at a substantially higher rate than mice but what researchers concluded was that while humans recover faster in the short-term, the long-term effects of repeated illness and inflammation could cumulatively have negative effects on the ageing brain.

Standards Of Care For Elderly And Those At Risk Of Dementia Must Improve

Researchers have highlighted that their findings could have important implications for the standard of care around even common infections around the elderly and those at risk of dementia, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing research around long covid.

Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Tulane University School of Medicine and lead author of the study has said more work needs to be done to understand why infections affect the brain and how to quickly mitigate those effects. ‘The biggest take away from this research, in our opinion, is the importance of staying as healthy and infection-free as possible’.

How To Lower Risk of Illness and Infections

Of course, this news is concerning but there are ways that you can help yourself when it comes to prevention of sickness and infection.

  • Washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap
  • Don’t share towels or crockery with somebody who is unwell
  • Making sure you’re eating healthily, regularly
  • Exercising often (even if it’s just going for walks!)
  • Sleeping well