Latest News » Depression and diabetes could be major risk factors for dementia, according to new research

A new study finds that depression can increase the risk for dementia by over 80 percent.

Millions of Americans already struggle with depression and/or diabetes, both of which are hard enough to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Now a new study reveals that these conditions may heighten the risk for another debilitating brain health issue, and one that's becoming increasingly more prominent in recent years: dementia.

Dr. Dimitry Davydow, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor with the University of Washington of Medicine, and his team evaluated 2.4 million people in Denmark who were all 50 years or older, did not exhibit any signs of dementia and suffered from either depression, type 2 diabetes or both. Comparing this sample size to a population that exhibited neither condition, and taking into account pre-existing conditions and medical histories, the researchers determined that depression increased the risk of dementia by 83 percent and diabetes by 15 percent. For those with both conditions, the risk for dementia grew by 107 percent. 

This is an especially troubling finding as not only are type 2 diabetes and depression becoming more common in the Western world, but up to 20 percent of those with the former also suffer from the latter. The dementia risk associated with depression and diabetes was especially pronounced in younger people, as about 25 percent of those in the study who were younger than 65 and had dementia could attribute their condition to diabetes or depression. With younger age groups demonstrating diabetes in greater numbers, this could have a serious ripple effect down the line.

These findings were published online in the April 15 edition of JAMA Psychiatry. 

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to look at this issue in a way," said Davydow. "There is lots of evidence that those who struggle with depression are more likely to develop chronic medical problems like diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure. They are less likely to take medications if they are depressed. Those who have diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression."

In turn, failing to take diabetes medications allows plaque to build in the blood vessels, raising the possibilities for stroke and dementia.

However, as HealthDay News points out, these findings only point to an association between the three conditions, rather than prove a definitive cause-and-effect link.

On their own, both depression and diabetes "pose threats to vascular health," according to Dr. Charles Reynolds III of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who commented on the study. As each condition can inhibit cognitive functioning and lead to a decline in brain health, it's crucial that anyone dealing with depression or diabetes pursues treatment.

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