What is COVID-19 brain fog — and how can you clear it? – Harvard Health Blog

As a cognitive behavioral neurologist, I have heard from many people who complain of “brain fog” after infection with COVID-19. So I thought it was worth discussing exactly what COVID-19 brain fog is and some things to do that could help eliminate it.

What is brain fog?

Let’s start by trying to understand brain fog. Brain fog is not a medical or scientific term; it is used by individuals to describe how they feel when their thinking is slow, fuzzy and not sharp.

We all have this feeling from time to time. Maybe you couldn’t think clearly when you had the flu or some other illness. Maybe you were jet lagged and your thinking was slow because you felt like it was 2 a.m. Or maybe you took an antihistamine or another medicine that made your thinking blurry for a few hours. In each case, you’ve probably just waited to get back to normal, whether that was recovering from your illness, adjusting to the new time zone, or waiting for the side effects of the drug to wear off.

But what if your thinking doesn’t return to normal?

What is COVID-19 brain fog?

Recently, I received an email from a man describing how he still struggled with “cognitive challenges” since recovering from the virus in the spring of 2020. His doctor gave him a checkup and battery. of tests. Everything was normal, but her cognitive challenges remain. Like this man, many people who have recovered from the acute and life-threatening effects of COVID-19, but still do not feel their thinking and memory has returned to normal.

How COVID-19 affects the brain

COVID-19 can damage the brain in many ways. As I described in a previous blog post, some can be devastating, such as encephalitis, stroke, and lack of oxygen in the brain. But other effects may be more subtle, such as the persistent deficiency in sustained attention noted by Chinese researchers.

In addition to direct effects on the brain, COVID-19 can also have long-term effects on other organ systems. So-called long carriers can have other persistent symptoms, including fatigue, muscle aches, inability to exercise, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. Some of these problems can be due to permanent damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, or other organs. Damage to these organs – or even just the symptoms themselves – can impair thinking and memory and cause brain fog. For example, how do you think clearly if you are feeling tired and your body hurts? How can you concentrate if you were up half the night and woke up with a headache?

What should you do if you experience COVID-19 brain fog?

The first and most important thing to do is to see your doctor and let them know about any lingering symptoms that you are experiencing. These should include your brain fog and other neurological symptoms (such as weakness, numbness, tingling, loss of smell or taste), as well as problems such as shortness of breath, palpitations, and urination or stool. abnormal.

What could help clear brain fog?

To help clear the brain fog, I recommend continuing all of the activities that we know that help everyone’s thinking and memory.

  • Do aerobic exercise. You may need to start slowly, maybe two to three minutes a few times a day. While there is no set “dose” of exercise for improving brain health, it is generally recommended that you work out 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Eat Mediterranean style meals. Healthy eating including olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, and whole grains have been shown to improve thinking and memory. and brain health.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Give your brain the best chance at healing by avoiding substances that can harm it.
  • Sleep well. Sleep is a time when the brain and body can flush out toxins and work on healing. Make sure you are giving your body the sleep it needs.
  • Take part in social activities. We are social animals. Social activities not only benefit our mood, but it also helps our thinking and memory.
  • Pursue other beneficial activities, including engaging in new and cognitively stimulating activities; listen to music; practice mindfulness; and keep a positive mental attitude.

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Jothi Venkat

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