Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Depression May Nearly Double Risk of Dementia


As the nuns use to say -- a word to the wise is sufficient.....
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room



I often wonder about the correlation between depression and Alzheimer's dementia. I wonder if this was a factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease in my mother?

After the death of my father in 1991 my mother lived on her own. She was very active. This gave the appearance that all was well. But was it?



Since moving to Delray Beach to care for my mother I made a simple observation -- it is devastating lonely to live by yourself while retired.

I noticed amongst my mother's friends and other older people here in the "Pines" that as they age they tend to stay in after dark. In December, after dark means right after 5 PM in the evening. Since many elderly people don't like to drive at night they are essentially home alone until some time the next day.

I noticed this phenomena and I realized something that had never occurred to me -- retirement can be lonely -- even if you are very active during the day. Put it this way. Sit back and imagine yourself all alone for 12 or more hours a day -- for 20 years or so. Your reaction?

By the way, if you are a stay at home, all by yourself, Alzheimer's caregiver you might already understand the point I am trying to make. No wonder 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers suffer from depression. Suffer from depression? After reading this research you might conclude -- uh oh.

On a side note, the majority of people living alone down her in the "Pines", the vast majority are women. The reason is obvious.

Does this loneliness cause depression? I often wonder are more of these older retirees depressed than we know? Depression and dementia are not easy to spot. We learn the hard way as caregivers that you really can't count on the doctor to "recognize" the symptoms of Alzheimer's (or depression for that matter) during those quick "in and out the door checkups" that most older people in "good" health get every three or six months.

To my fellow baby boomers -- start paying attention to your parents. A week or two a year visit is not enough. Get involved and get your head out of the sand. Yeah I know, you are busy living your own life.

As the nuns use to say -- a word to the wise is sufficient.

The following research is interesting and important.

Depression May Nearly Double Risk of Dementia

"While it's unclear if depression causes dementia, there are a number of ways depression might impact the risk of dementia," said study author Jane Saczynski, PhD, with the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA. "Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs when a person is depressed might contribute to dementia. Certain proteins found in the brain that increase with depression may also increase the risk of developing dementia. In addition, several lifestyle factors related to long-term depression, such as diet and the amount of exercise and social time a person engages in, could also affect whether they develop dementia."

The results were the same regardless of a person's age, sex, education and whether they had the APOE gene that increases a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease.

A new study shows that having depression may nearly double your risk of developing dementia later in life. The research will be published in the July 6, 2010, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, researchers examined research data on 949 people with an average age of 79 from the Framingham Heart Study.

At the start of the study, participants were free of dementia and were tested for depressive symptoms based on questions about general depression, sleep complaints, social relationships and other factors.

A total of 125 people, or 13 percent, were classified as having depression at the start of the study.

The participants were followed for up to 17 years.

At the end of the study, 164 people had developed dementia with 136 specifically diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Nearly 22 percent of people who were depressed at the start of the study developed dementia compared to about 17 percent of those who were not depressed, a 70 percent increased risk in those who were depressed.

The 10-year absolute risk for dementia was 0.21 in people without depressive symptoms and 0.34 in people with depressive symptoms.

The results were the same regardless of a person's age, sex, education and whether they had the APOE gene that increases a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease.

"While it's unclear if depression causes dementia, there are a number of ways depression might impact the risk of dementia," said study author Jane Saczynski, PhD, with the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA. "Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs when a person is depressed might contribute to dementia. Certain proteins found in the brain that increase with depression may also increase the risk of developing dementia. In addition, several lifestyle factors related to long-term depression, such as diet and the amount of exercise and social time a person engages in, could also affect whether they develop dementia."

Saczynski hopes the study, which is one of the largest and longest population based studies to date, helps clear up confusion over earlier studies that reported inconsistent results about the link between depression and dementia.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and was made possible by the continued participation of the study participants. The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

http://www.aan.com


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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,610 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room