Next time you’re feeling sad, try to cheer up. Otherwise, you might be increasing your risk of cognitive decline.
A new study has found that those who suffer from depression are more likely to develop dementia as they age.
A study looked at the mental health of 1,764 participants over an average of 7.8 years. The 52.2% of participants that had developed mild cognitive impairment were more likely to show signs of depression.
“Studies have shown that people with symptoms of depression are more likely to develop dementia, but we haven’t known how the relationship works,” said Dr. Robert Wilson, a neuropsychiatrist. “Is the depression a consequence of the dementia? Do both problems develop from the same underlying problems in the brain? Or does the relationship of depression with dementia have nothing to do with dementia-related pathology?”
Scientists do know that depression symptoms began to decrease once dementia was diagnosed in a patient. Wilson attributes this to a decline in brain function, and suggests that prescribing antidepressants may help enhance mental function among those suffering from dementia.
Scientists have successfully identified a series of 10 proteins found in the blood that could ultimately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Eventually, such a test might be used to help find a cure for the currently untreatable disease.
The study, which was conducted by British scientists over a year-long period, predicted whether or not participants would develop Alzheimer’s with 87 percent accuracy.
They began by looking at blood samples from 1,100 participants divided into three categories: 476 who already had Alzheimer’s, 220 with mild cognitive impairment, and 452 without dementia. Initially, they were looking for 26 proteins that had been linked to Alzheimer’s in the past, but narrowed down their search after further analysis.
Scientists say this test is crucial because it would allow them to begin clinical trials earlier in the disease’s progression. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6 percent of clinical trials geared towards preventing or reversing the effects of the disease were a failure.
“Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed (and) many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs the brain has already been too severely affected,” said Simon Lovestone of Oxford University, one of the study’s authors.
“A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease,” he continued.
The next step in the process is to repeat the findings on a several group of people. If all goes according to plan, the blood test could be available for use in the next two years and would cost around 100-300 British pounds.
Until the test is more verifiable, scientists have doubts about using it on the general public as a diagnosis tool.
“Alzheimer’s disease is now the most feared diagnosis,” said Dr. Eric Karran, science director at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “We have to be very careful about how we use these tests, especially in the absence of effective therapy.”
“These 10 proteins can predict conversion to dementia with less than 90% accuracy, meaning one in 10 people would get an incorrect result,” said Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society. “Therefore, accuracy would need to be improved before it could be a useful diagnostic test.”
Speaking more than one language has been show to stave off cognitive decline as people age, according to a new study.
Researchers had known from previous studies that bilinguals got dementia four to five years later than monolinguals. However, the new study shows that it is the action of learning a new language that keep the brain active, rather than some inherent intelligence factor which makes people more likely to learn a second language.
“The big problem we didn’t know how to address was reverse causality,” said study author Dr. Thomas H. Bak of the University of Edinburgh Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology. “That is a very difficult question to address, and we needed a very special population to do it.”
The study used data collected in 1947 from 853 Scottish participants who were 11 years old. These same participants were then tested again in 2008 and 2010 when they had reached their seventies. By that time, 262 had become bilingual, with 195 learning their second language before age 18 and 65 learning their language during adulthood.
Results showed that the bilinguals performed better on cognitive tests than monolinguals with respect to their baseline results, even if they had not scored better on the previous tests. They scored higher on reading, verbal fluency, and general intelligence than the monolinguals.
It also did not matter if the bilinguals had learned the language during their youth or in adulthood.
“Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life,” Bak said. “Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.”
The data also indicated that the brain benefits increased when participants learned third, fourth, or fifth languages.
“I don’t think there’s anything magic about learning languages,” Bak continued. “Both mental and physical activity throughout the life are protective, and learning language is a very good form of brain training.”
Bak does not recommend that people push themselves to learn a second language just to keep dementia at bay. However, he does admit that learning a language can be beneficial for those who choose to do so.
A new study shows that elderly people who show symptoms of dementia but do not yet have Alzheimer’s have a 30 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.
Completed by Dr. Julian Benito-León of the Complutense University in Madrid, the study looked at 2,627 participants who were over 65 years of age.
The participants were given tests to assess their memory and thinking skills at the beginning of the study and then again after three years. The seniors were divided into three groups: those whose scores were declining the fastest, those whose scores improved, and those who were in the middle. Each participant was followed for an average of about 13 years.
During the course of the study, 1,003 participants died, 34 percent of which were a part of the fastest decline group. 21 percent of the fastest decline deaths were due to cancer.
In comparison, 29 percent of the deaths in the other groups were caused by cancer.
Even when variables were adjusted for factors such as smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, patients in the fastest decline group were still 30 percent less likely to die of cancer.
“We need to understand better the relationship between a disease that causes abnormal cell death and one that causes abnormal cell growth,” Dr. Benito-León said. “With the increasing number of people with both dementia and cancer, understanding this association could help us better understand and treat both diseases.”
Unfortunately, scientists still don’t understand the exact link between the two diseases. The study does help discount one one theory that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease simply failed to report their cancer symptoms, however.
The study joins the growing research that connects neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. A 2013 report showed that Alzheimer’s patients were half as likely to develop cancer and cancer patients were 35 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Photo by fechi fajardo