Dementia: stress hormones that come along with depression actually damage the brain's ability to form new memories

Living Smart

Life is better when we are happy. A positive outlook can improve even on the saddest days. Of course, the ability to keep a smile despite adversity and daily secularity is not always easy. Everyone is sometimes in a bad mood or depressed. But did you know that depression is also associated with an increased risk of dementia? For example, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry concludes that depression in old age has a 70% increased risk of dementia. But what about depression early in life? Does early adult dissatisfaction also increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in the coming decades?

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This was a question that a fascinating new study at the University of California, San Francisco wanted to answer, and the results that followed were convincing. Depression is a complex condition that requires personal care, treatment, and understanding, but the results of this study certainly encourage us to find a brighter side of life.

There is a long-term relationship between depression and dementia

The authors of the study report that depression in early adulthood has a detrimental effect on the thinking and cognitive abilities of the rest of life, independent of depression at other stages of life.

Even after just 10 years, a 25-year-old is more likely to shrink to a 35-year-old. The same people are also more likely to experience complete cognitive decline as they get older.

In a collection of about 6,000 older people, researchers found that those who reported depression in early adulthood were 73% more likely to experience cognitive decline later in life. Similarly, older people who dealt with depression in middle or late adulthood were 43% more likely to report cognitive decline with age. However, the research team concludes that early adult depression decades later may appear to predict the onset of dementia. On the other hand, maintaining a certain degree of aggressiveness in the 20s and 30s seems to be effective in preventing the decline in cognitive function associated with aging.

Researchers certainly also consider some other potentially influential depressive factors, such as other stages of life, age, gender, body mass index, education level, race, and depressive symptoms during smoking.

For the 6,000 older people who participated in the survey, the average age at the start of the survey was 72 years. From that moment on, each person was reviewed annually or semi-annually for up to 11 years.

15,000 subjects were screened for depression through a 10-question survey. Symptoms of moderate to severe depression were recorded in 13% of young adults, 26% of middle-aged adults, and 34% of older people. Finally, 1,277 people were diagnosed with at least some form of cognitive impairment.

One possible explanation

Why does depression today promote dementia tomorrow? Although uncertain yet, the authors of the study theorize that all the extra stress hormones associated with depression actually impair the brain's ability to form new memories.

"Several mechanisms explain how depression increases the risk of dementia," said Willa Breno, lead author of the University of California, San Francisco School of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Weil Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Witz (MPH) said. "In some cases, overactivity of the central stress response system increases the production of glucocorticoids, stress hormones, and damages the hippocampus, parts of the brain that are essential for the formation, organization, and storage of new memories."

Positivity is not easy, but it's worth it

“Overall, we found that the greater the depressive symptoms, the lower the cognitive ability and the faster the decline,” he explains. Brenowitz. "Elderly people who are presumed to have moderate or severe depressive symptoms in early adulthood have experienced cognitive decline for 10 years."

More research is needed to refine and validate these findings, but the research team more often recognizes and discusses the strong link between depression and dementia by doctors, caregivers, and therapists.

"Future work is needed to confirm these findings, but in the meantime, depression needs to be detected and treated for a number of reasons," said the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology and Epidemiology. The lead author of the book, Christine Jaffe, MD, concludes.

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