Cold sores. Annoying, embarrassing, uncomfortable. Enough to drive you crazy?
Not quite. However, according to a new study the virus that causes cold sores may be associated with cognitive problems such as difficulties with memory and thinking.
During the study researchers from New York and Miami tested thinking and memory in 1,625 people. Participants gave blood samples that were tested for five common low grade infections: herpes simplex type 1 (oral) and type 2 (genital), cytomegalovirus, chlamydia pneumoniae (a common respiratory infection) and Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria found in the stomach). The memory and thinking skills were tested every year for an average of eight years.
The results showed that the people who had higher levels of infection had a 25% increase in the risk of a low score on the Mini-Mental State Examination – a 30-point questionnaire that is commonly used to screen for cognitive impairment and dementia.
In other words, those who had higher levels of anti-viral antibodies in their blood, meaning they had been exposed over the years to various pathogens, were more likely to have cognitive problems than people with lower levels of infection in the blood.
“We found the link was greater among women, those with lower levels of education and Medicaid or no health insurance, and most prominently, in people who do not exercise,” said author Mira Katan, MD. “While this association needs to be further studied, the results could lead to ways to identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and eventually lower that risk.”
The authors suggest that exercise and childhood vaccinations against viruses could decrease the risk for memory problems later in life.
Just one more reason for us all to get vaccinated and stay fit!