Late-life depression may contribute to risk of Alzheimer’s

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Depression is quite common among older adults. Until now, doctors didn’t realize that depression can cause a buildup of a naturally occurring protein in the brain called beta-amyloid which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Late-life depression could be a major risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s according to new research.

The Alzheimer’s/depression connection

Alzheimer’s disease begins developing years before noticeable cognitive decline and memory loss. Depression has its own negative effects on the body and brain, but here researchers found an undeniable connection between beta-amyloid in depressed elderly patients with cognitive deficits and advancement to Alzheimer’s disease. They proved the connection through molecular imaging data.

Elevated amyloid-levels

“Our results clearly indicate that mild cognitively impaired subjects with depressive symptoms suffer from elevated amyloid-levels when compared with non-depressed individuals,” explained the study’s principal scientist Axel Rominger, MD, from the department of nuclear medicine at the University of Munich in Germany. “The combination of elevated amyloid-levels and coexisting depressive symptoms constitute a patient population with a high risk for faster progression to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Knowing the risks creates a chance to reduce them

Alzheimer’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disease. “Therapeutic options for Alzheimer’s disease are still limited and therefore the identification and understanding of contributing risk factors that influence the disease are crucial in ongoing research as they offer the possibilities for future medical intervention,” noted co-author and fellow researcher Matthais Brendel. Knowing the risk could help patients and their families make changes and plan for future changes.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s 2014 Annual Meeting

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