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Can Depression Be An Early Sign of Alzheimer's?

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Can depression be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia? In the latest issue of the Memory Disorders Bulletin, Peter V. Rabins, M.D. M.P.H, professor of psychiatry, emeritus, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, answers.

Some researchers believe that depression may be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It could be, for example, that brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s interferes with the healthy signaling of neurotransmitters that govern mood. This scenario seems like an especially plausible explanation for depression that occurs near the onset of cognitive impairment.

Another possibility is that some common biological phenomenon links dementia and depression. For instance, scientists report that people who are depressed have an increased risk for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease—that is, blockages in the arteries that impede blood flow to the heart and brain, respectively. Reduced blood flow to the brain, which starves tissue of oxygen and nutrients, is also at the core of vascular dementia, the second most common form of the disease, after Alzheimer’s.

Results from a 2013 analysis of 23 scientific papers are striking and lend support to this idea: Although depression was associated with an 85 percent increased risk for dementia from all causes, the risk for vascular dementia was 250 percent. 

 

Posted in Depression and Anxiety on November 13, 2015


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