Depression's gloomy tentacles can extend into all aspects of life. They may even reach ahead in time, increasing the risk for dementia. The October 2012 Harvard Women's Health Watch explores the link between the onset of depression in middle age or later and memory loss.
Dementia is more common among people who become depressed in middle age or later in life than among those who aren't depressed, according to a report in Archives of General Psychiatry. In that study, age of onset was also linked to the type of dementia—individuals with late-life depression had double the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, while those whose depression began in midlife faced three times the risk for vascular dementia (which is caused by poor blood flow in the brain).
Depression is often overlooked in older adults. "I think older individuals are more in denial about having depressive illness," 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. "They'll say, 'Well, I'm 83 years old—who wouldn't be depressed?'" Ignoring sadness or dismissing it as a normal side effect of aging could allow potentially treatable memory issues to progress unchecked.
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