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Memory Problems Plus Depression Up Alzheimer’s Risk

People with memory problems who are depressed are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who are not depressed.

However, the research also shows that the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept (donepezil) may delay the progression to Alzheimer’s disease for depressed people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or memory problems.

Mild cognitive impairment is described as the period in between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

A person with MCI experiences memory problems that are greater than expected with normal aging but does not show other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as difficulties in completing everyday activities.

For the study, researchers followed for three years 756 people with MCI who were between the ages of 55 and 91. Of those, 208 were diagnosed with depression using a test that measures the severity and intensity of a person’s depressive symptoms. For every one-point increase on the test, a participant’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease went up by three percent.

“Our longer-term findings add to the body of evidence that suggests depression is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Po H. Lu, PsyD, assistant professor of neurology with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

“Since the drug donepezil has been shown to improve the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, our study also tested whether the drug would delay the progression to Alzheimer’s disease in people with memory problems.”

Participants were given either vitamin E, donepezil or a placebo pill. The study found that at 1.7 years, among depressed people with mild cognitive impairment, 11 percent of those taking donepezil developed Alzheimer’s disease compared to 25 percent of those who took vitamin E or placebo.

At 2.2 years, 14 percent of those taking donepezil developed Alzheimer’s compared to 29 percent of those who took vitamin E or placebo. Donepezil had little effect in the group of people who were not depressed.

“If we can delay the progression of this disease for even two years, it could significantly improve the quality of life for many people dealing with memory loss,” said Lu.

Donepezil is not approved for use in mild cognitive impairment by the FDA. It is indicated for mild to moderate and severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Findings are published in the print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Memory Problems Plus Depression Up Alzheimer’s Risk

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Memory Problems Plus Depression Up Alzheimer’s Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/06/17/memory-problems-plus-depression-up-alzheimers-risk/6578.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.