Study: Depression Raises Your Risk of Dementia
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New research reveals that people with depression are at a higher risk of developing dementia, suggesting that proper treatment of depressive symptoms could lower a person's risk for cognitive decline later in life.
"We've known for a long time that people with some depression are more likely to develop cognitive decline and dementia in old age than people without depression," the study's lead author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, neuropsychiatrist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, told Yahoo Health. "But dementia takes a long time to develop, more than a decade, and there's been school of thought that depression was perhaps an early sign of the development of dementia and not a true risk factor. Here we show that is definitely not the case."
Related: Fish Oil Boosts Brain PowerAnother theory has suggested that depression and dementia were caused by the same abnormality in the brain, which would mean that higher levels of dementia would lead to more severe depression. The current study revealed the opposite. "We found that people did not become more depressed and some even became less depressed after they developed dementia," said Wilson. "Furthermore, depression was not related to the common brain [abnormalities] that really drive dementia in old age. So depression appears to be a genuine risk factor for cognitive decline."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.1 percent —approximately 28 million — Americans suffer from depression, with people ages 45 to 64 are at the highest risk. Wilson said that most of the participants in his study did not suffer from major depression and showed only mild to moderate symptoms, yet they still were more likely to suffer cognitive decline. "These were not necessarily people who were going to see a psychiatrist for their condition," he added. "The message is that mild to moderate depressive symptoms make a difference by the time you reach old age, so we should think about more aggressively treating these less severe cases."