How Is Depression Related To Dementia?

Sad Elderly Man

Researchers have done a lot of theorizing about how depression is related to dementia. A recent study (published in the journal, Neurology) finds that there is, indeed, a link between depression and dementia, and further research is needed to understand more about the cause and effect relationship between the two.  The major theories on the reason depression and dementia often occur together fall into three groups. One theory says that depression is an early sign or symptom of dementia.

Another theory is that when depression occurs, it damages the brain, leading to dementia. Stress and depression result in the release of cortisol. Over the course of time, cortisol can cause harm to the brain. A third theory is that depression may cause reduced brain volume which is a significant risk factor of dementia. There are some important take-aways from this research. One valuable conclusion of these findings is that people with depression symptoms should get treatment for it even if the symptoms aren’t disabling.

Treatment can include medication and/or behavioral therapy. If we can manage or shorten the depression, we may be able to reduce the risk of dementia. In order to help prevent either depression or dementia, a healthy lifestyle – including good nutrition and daily exercise – is recommended. In addition, staying socially active and engaging in mentally stimulating activities also contribute to mental health in older adults. We can be sure that further research on this topic will continue to shed new light on these important questions.

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