Depression & Alzheimer\'s
7 Healthcast: Depression & Alzheimer's
"The onset of dementia can often be preceded by a period of depression, so we feel that it is very important for people who have depression to get in to see their doctors and get into treatment," said psychiatrist Dr. John Allen.
A University of Pittsburgh study recently found that one untreated major depressive episode during late middle age could double the risk of getting dementia as a senior.
"Whether the depression is actually causing the dementia or not, that's not truly understood yet," Dr. Allen said.
One theory is that when you're depressed certain hormones are released into your brain that cause permanent physical changes.
Those changes and mental inactivity may eventually trigger dementia, according to a 2006 study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
"We know that if a person is not active, that may be because they're depressed or maybe they're depressed because they're not active," said dementia researcher Dr. James Brewer. "It's hard to see what causes what."
Prevention may be the same either way.
"The one thing that we feel like you can really do to stave off Alzheimer's disease as much as you possibly can is to stay socially involved and stay interactive and mentally active," Dr. Brewer said.
The National Institute of Mental Health said most people with depression don't get help, but experts stress it is important to remember that it is a real disorder and should be treated like any other medical condition.
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