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Depression in seniors may increase risks for dementia, according to a new study.

Depression in seniors may increase risks for dementia, according to a new study.

Researchers are finding more and more evidence that elderly people who suffer from depression exhibit a greater risk of developing dementia. But while scientists are discovering more signs of this trend, they are still unable to explain the association between the two, particularly if depression influences dementia risk or vice versa.

According to HealthDay News, a recent study was published in the online journal Neurology on July 30, which examined this new brain health development. The study looked at over 1,700 patients with an average age of 77 and no prior history of cognitive or memory support problems.

The research team found that those who exhibited symptoms of depression also tended to suffer from rapid declines in thinking, so much so that depression was actually determined to be responsible for 4.4 percent of the drop in mental acuity "that could not be attributed to dementia-related damage."

"This is a risk factor we should take seriously," Robert Wilson, the study's lead author and a senior neuropsychologist with the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center of Rush University. "Treating depression can reduce the risk of dementia in older people."

One interesting discovery that the team learned was that the onset of dementia doesn't increase feelings of depression but actually reduces them. As Wilson notes, dementia relies "on a certain continuity of experience" that diminishes as brain health deteriorates. Consequently, while high levels of depression may be precursors to dementia and cognitive declines, dementia in turn ends up decreasing those levels of depression.

While science has yet to establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between the two, this study would indicate that treating depression can help, in some way, with dementia.

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