The Archives of General Psychiatry recently published a study that found people who became depressed late in life had a 70% increased risk of dementia, and people who had been depressed since middle age were at an 80% greater risk. The authors believe that depression late in life may reflect changes in the brain that can make people more vulnerable to developing dementia. At times older adults may fail to notice depression symptoms, or believe the way they are feeling is due to unavoidable effects of aging. “I think older individuals are more in denial about depressive illness. They’ll say, ‘Well, I’m 83 years old – who wouldn’t be depressed?” says Dr. M. Cornelia Cremens, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a geriatric psychiatrist in the senior health practice at Massachusetts General Hospital. In fact, seeking help for depression may actually be the first step in treating potentially treatable memory issues.
As we get older life changes can put us at greater risk for depression. These changes include:
* The death of a spouse, family members or friends
* Moving from home and into a retirement home or assisted living facility
* Chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes are more likely to emerge. These conditions can increase the likelihood of depression, and vice versa
If you are feeling depressed, the first step should be seeing your doctor or a psychiatrist. Medicine, psychotherapy, and or cognitive behavioral therapy (which teaches skills to cope with depression) are all used to treat depression. While there is not a cure for dementia, you can reduce your risk by treating depression, as well as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and staying socially active. Dr. Cremens adds, “If somebody appears to have the beginnings of dementia and they are depressed, it’s very important to treat their depression, and to treat it as aggressively as possible.” ….. Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School 10/22/12