Dementia: The ‘major’ health factor that could be evident nine years prior to diagnosis

Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature

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Dementia is a condition characterised by a gradual loss of mental coordination, beyond what can be expected as a consequence of old age. As the brain’s functions become progressively hampered, patients can expect confusion and memory loss to intensify. There are myriad conditions associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as hearing loss and anxiety. One new body of research suggests that “severe depression” could be one of the earliest indicators that the brain is slowing down.

Dementia cases in the UK currently average around 850,000, but projections suggest cases could climb to two million by 2050.

Researchers from the Paris Brain Institute, have identified major depression as one of the earliest conditions associated with a subsequent Alzheimer’s diagnosis – the most common cause of dementia.

The mental health condition can appear up to nine years in advance, according to the findings.

The results, published in the Lancet, stem from a meta-analysis of 20,214 people with Alzheimer’s in the UK, and 19,458 Alzheimer’s patients in France.

READ MORE: Dementia breakthrough: The foods proven to lower your risk – ‘important for healthy brain’

The researchers said they have yet to establish whether major depression is a risk factor, warning sign or symptom of the disease.

Nonetheless, the researchers said their “findings make it possible to model the possible trajectories of risk factors in the period preceding the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, providing new insights into possible windows for prevention”.

Other conditions linked to Alzheimer’s in the study included hearing loss, sleep troubles, constipation, anxiety, hearing loss, cervical spondylosis (arthritis) and anxiety.

It has long been known that depression can lead to a worsening of cognitive decline because it impairs attention and memory.

The nature of the condition’s relationship with Alzheimer’s, however, has remained a mystery.

Some experts believe biological changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease could intensify a predisposition to depression, explains the Mayo Clinic.

But some studies suggest depression could increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

Individuals with depression typically display lower cognitive flexibility, which refers to the ability to adapt goals to shifting situations.

In fact, executive functioning – which encompasses working skills and self-control – can also become hampered in these individuals.

What’s more, the mental health condition is an established early sign of another brain disease such as Parkinson’s.

How to prevent brain decline Many cases of Alzheimer’s are put down to genetic defects, but taking action early can effectively slow the progression of cognitive decline.

In fact, previous reviews have suggested that implementing lifestyle measures early on could prevent approximately half of dementia cases.

Mentally and socially stimulating activities combined could prevent decline by preserving sharpness.

The connection between poor dietary choices and dementia is also becoming hard to deny.

Flavonoid-rich foods such as berries could reduce inflammation – one of the hallmarks of brain disease.

In fact, experiments have shown people who eat the most flavonoids have a 48 percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

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