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Depression and Mild Cognitive Decline May Lead to Increased Brain Aging

A recent study suggests that people who develop depression and mild cognitive impairment after the age of 65 are more likely to have accelerated brain aging, putting them at higher risk for dementia. The study also found that older adults with major depression are twice as likely to develop dementia as those who have never suffered depression.

Participants in the study included 80 older adults who were in remission after treatment for major depressive episodes. Of those participants, 36 had mild cognitive impairment and 44 had normal cognitive function.

The researchers tested their blood for 242 proteins that are part of biologic pathways associated with cancer, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, and psychiatric and neurological disorders. They also performed PET and MRI brain scans to search for cerebrovascular disease, brain atrophy or shrinkage, and beta-amyloid- a protein that is a marker of the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

After analyzing the tests, the researchers found that the participants with mild cognitive impairment were more likely to have differences in the 24 proteins involved in the regulation of immune and inflammatory pathways, intracellular signaling, cell survival, and protein and lipid balance. The brain scans also showed that the mild cognitive impairment group was more likely to have cerebrovascular disease.

These results suggest that older adults with depression and mild cognitive impairment may be more susceptible to accelerated brain aging. This puts them at risk for developing dementia.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted the study. It was published on August 5, 2014, in Molecular Psychiatry.

Previous studies have identified 6 pillars of a brain-healthy lifestyle. They are regular exercise, healthy diet, mental stimulation, quality sleep, stress management and an active social life. Incorporating all of these into your daily life may help reduce the risk of developing dementia.

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