Scientists have discovered that symptoms of depression that increase over time in older age could be a sign of early dementia, according to an article published recently on BBC News.
A team of Dutch researchers has looked at the different ways in which depression progresses over time in older adults and what risks are associated with it. What they found is that a state of worsening depression can signal the condition is taking cold.
The researched followed more than 3,000 adults aged 55 and over, who all had depression but no symptoms of dementia at the beginning of the study. Dr M Arfan Ikram of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam said depressive symptoms that increase gradually over time seem to predict dementia later in life more than other types of depression.
“There are a number of potential explanations, including that depression and dementia may both be symptoms of a common underlying cause, or that increasing depressive symptoms are on the starting end of a dementia continuum in older adults” declared Ikram.
Only the group whose symptoms increased over time were found to be at higher risk of dementia – around one in five people in the group (55 out of 255) developed dementia.
The exact nature of depression on dementia risk remains unknown, and while they often occur together, there is a bigger need for more studies that look at different patterns of depression symptoms.
Dr Simone Reppermund from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, says:
“A focus on lifestyle factors such as physical activity and social networks, and biological risk factors such as vascular disease, neuroinflammation, high concentrations of stress hormones, and neuropathological changes, might bring new treatment and prevention strategies a step closer.”
Depression varies from one person to another, from brief symptoms to remitting and relapsing depression and constant depressive state. Dr Simon Ridley, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, believes anyone who is concerned about any type of depression should seek help:
“The findings suggest that low levels of depression or fluctuating symptoms may not affect dementia risk but that a worsening of symptoms in the over-55s may be an early indicator of diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s important to remember that only a relatively small number of people experiencing symptoms of depression went on to develop dementia during this 11-year study, but anyone concerned about either condition should talk to their GP.”