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With growing evidence that the coronavirus directly harms the brain and indirectly harms mental well-being due to social isolation and new, increased stressors, the GCBH recognized the urgent need to inform adults age 50+ about ways to their protect brain health as the pandemic continues.


“People know that COVID-19 is a disease that affects the lungs, but they are not as aware that it can affect the brain as well. Even though there is much still to be learned about how COVID-19 affects our thinking, the GCBH wanted everyone to know this is a well-recognized problem, and emphasize that there are ways to address the health of their brain during the pandemic, and to address some of the negative effects of the isolation that many people are experiencing,” explains council chair Dr. Marilyn Albert, professor of neurology and director of the division on cognitive neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.


The GCBH describes the known neurological symptoms occurring in the short and long term for adults, providing 10 recommendations to protect brain health and urging research in 11 different areas. In addition to the well-known advice to wear masks, wash hands and stay physically distant, older adults should consider getting the vaccine as soon as they can (see AARP’s guide to the vaccine). Maintaining routine medical check-ups and necessary screenings for any ongoing health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, is critical for short- and long-term brain health. Staying socially connected – safely and virtually – with family and friends is essential for mental well-being during this difficult time. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep is also vital for brain health now and through the long road of healing ahead.

Calling for an all-of-society approach to protect the brain health of everyone, the  GCBH draws particular attention to the negative effects of COVID-19 on people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and to the impact of health care inequalities. The GCBH highlights a recent study in the U.S. which found that people with dementia were twice as likely to catch the virus as those without dementia; African Americans with dementia had nearly three times the risk of COVID-19 as Caucasians with dementia. The GCBH also points out that caregivers for those living with dementia have experienced particular stress and provides resources and guidance. The Council spotlights the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 on the vulnerable, including racial and ethnic minorities and those living in low- to middle-income countries.

Read articles by Hallie Levine to find out more about COVID-19 and the brain and ways to care for your body and mind.

Click image to view full PDF. 

Available in Spanish translation

Infographic

Tips to preserve brain health during the pandemic.

covid-19: protect your brain, too infographic thumbnail

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Also available in SpanishFrenchChinese and Arabic translation. 

AAIC Conference Poster

Thumbnail for GCBH's poster at AAIC 2021

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GCBH poster presented at the 2021 Alzheimer's Association International Conference. See also AARP Staying Sharp posters here and here.

COVID-19 Report Panel

 MARILYN ALBERT, PhD (*GC Chair/IE)

Johns Hopkins University
 

PEGGYE DILWORTH-ANDERSON, PhD (*GC)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

SHARON K. INOUYE, MD, MPH (*IE)

Harvard Medical School & Hebrew Senior Life, USA

MIIA KIVIPELTO, MD, PhD (*GC)

Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)

 AOIFE O'DONOVAN, PhD (*IE)

University of California – San Francisco, USA

KRISTINE YAFFE, MD (*GC)

University of California San Francisco

KAARIN ANSTEY, PhD (*GC)

University of New South Wales and Neuroscience Research Australia

E. WESLEY ELY, MD, MPH (*IE)

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, USA

 YVES JOANETTE, PhD, FCAHS (*GC)

University of Montreal (Canada)

JESSICA LANGBAUM, PhD (*GC)

Banner Alzheimer’s Institute

RONALD C. PETERSEN, MD, PhD (*GC)

Mayo Clinic

KATE ZHONG, MD (*GC)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

LINDA CLARE, PhD, ScD (*GC Vice-Chair)

University of Exeter (UK)

 

S. DUKE HAN, PhD, ABPP-CN (*GC/IE)

University of Southern California  

JASON KARLAWISH, MD (*GC Lead/IE)

University of Pennsylvania

 JACOBO MINTZER, MD (*GC)

Roper Saint Francis Research and Innovation Center

SUDHA SESHADRI, MD, DM (*IE)

University of Texas Health – San Antonio, USA

 

* Key to terms:

GC: GCBH Governance Committee Member
GC Chair: GCBH Governance Committee Chair
GC Vice-Chair: GCBH Governance Committee Vice-Chair
GC Lead: GCBH Governance Committee Lead for Report
IE: GCBH Issue Expert

 

Suggested Citation: 

Global Council on Brain Health (2021). “COVID-19 and Brain Health: The Global Council on Brain Health's Recommendations on What to Do Now" Available at www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26419/pia.00104.001