Dementia: The mood signs that may show up 'more than 25 years' before onset of Alzheimer's

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Dementia can refer to any number of conditions characterised by cognitive decline but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Alzheimer’s disease is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss may be a hallmark sign but depressive symptoms can precede the onset of cognitive symptoms by decades.

Over the course of the study, the odds of developing Alzheimer’s were estimated with and without depression symptoms, adjusting for age, sex, education, history of head trauma, and apolipoprotein E status.

What did the researchers find out?

There was a significant association between depression symptoms and Alzheimer’s. In families where depression symptoms first occurred within one year before the onset of Alzheimer’s, the association was higher.

In the families where the depression symptoms first occurred more than one year before the onset of Alzheimer’s, the association was lower.

In families where depression symptoms first occurred more than 25 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s, there was still a modest association.

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The researchers concluded: “Depression symptoms before the onset of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] are associated with the development of AD, even in families where first depression symptoms occurred more than 25 years before the onset of AD.

“These data suggest that depression symptoms are a risk factor for later development of AD.”

What’s more, the timing of depression may be important in defining the nature of the association between depression and dementia.

A 28-year follow-up cohort study found that depressive symptoms later in life were significantly associated with the development of dementia, while depressive symptoms earlier in the study were not.

Depressive symptoms – what to look for

The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people.

“If you’re depressed, you may feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy,” explains the NHS.

The health body continues: “The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life.”

The psychological symptoms of depression include:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.

If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone. Help and support is available right now if you need it. You do not have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.

You can also call the below helpline for advice if this applies to you or someone else.

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