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Depression doubles risk of dementia
  05 July 2010
Having depression may nearly double the risk of developing dementia later in life, according to analysis published in the latest issue of Neurology.
Some 949 people with an average age of 79 were enrolled from the famed Framingham Heart Study and at the start of the trial, 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%, were classified as having depression at the start of the study and 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% who were depressed at the beginning developed dementia compared to about 17% of those who were not depressed and the results were the same regardless of a person's age, sex, education and whether they had the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene that increases a person's risk of AD.
Study author Jane Saczynski at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, said that while it is unclear if depression causes dementia, "there are a number of ways depression might impact the risk of dementia". Inflammation of brain tissue that occurs when a person is depressed might contribute to the disease and "certain proteins found in the brain that increase with depression may also increase the risk of developing dementia".
She added that "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. Dr Saczynski said she 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.
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