CLEVELAND (WJW) – Older adults have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s within a year of a COVID-19 diagnosis, a recent study shows.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University helped lead the study, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on Tuesday.

The study looked at electronic health records of 6.2 million patients, ages 65 and older, who received medical treatment between February 2020 and May 2021. Patients in the study had no prior diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

More than 400,000 patients were in the COVID-19 study group, while 5.8 million were in the non-infected study group.

According to researchers, patients who had been infected with COVID-19 had a 50% to 80% higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t.

The study showed that women over the age of 85 were at the highest risk.

Researchers say they’re unsure if COVID-19 brought along Alzheimer’s or if the virus sped up its development.

“The factors that play into the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood, but two pieces considered important are prior infections, especially viral infections, and inflammation,” said Pamela Davis, a research professor from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and coauthor of the study.

Davis said this could mean a substantial wave of Alzheimer’s disease patients, putting more pressure on long-term care facilities that are already strained.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and challenging disease, and we thought we had turned some of the tide on it by reducing general risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle,” Davis said. “Now, so many people in the U.S. have had COVID and the long-term consequences of COVID are still emerging. It is important to continue to monitor the impact of this disease on future disability.”

In a previous study, Case Western researchers found that people with dementia were twice as likely to get COVID-19.