Dementia and Depression: Are They Affecting Only the Older People?

  • 18 Aug 2022

Depression is a risk factor for dementia. People with symptoms of depression are more likely to suffer from a rapid decline in thinking and memory skills. Let’s read below how dementia and depression makes the older people suffer.

What Is Dementia And Depression?

Dementia (major neurocognitive disorder) is a state of a person's mental function and is not a specific disease. This decline in mental function affects one’s daily activities and causes a decline in memory, reasoning, coordination, language, mood and behavior. Another name for dementia is major neurocognitive disorder. The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease. It also occurs as a side effect of medication for thyroid problems. About 50% of people who are above 85 years of age and older, suffer from dementia. 5-8% of people who age above 65 years also suffer from some form of dementia. Although dementia is not a normal part of aging, a memory loss does not necessarily mean that a person has dementia. Depression (major neurodegenerative disorder)  on the other hand is a mood disorder, a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in daily chores. Another name for it is major depressive disorder or clinical depression that affects one’s ability to feel, think, and behave properly. It may cause several emotional and physical problems as well. 

What Are Some Common Causes Of Dementia And Depression?

  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Fronto-temporal dementia(FTD)
  • Mixed dementia
  • Physical changes in brain causing depression
  • Changes in function of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters affects mood stability leading to depression
  • Hormonal changes which are very sudden in body may trigger depression
  • Depression as inherited trait 

What Are The Types Of Dementia?

  • Primary dementia
  • Secondary dementia
  • Reversible dementia

How Different Are All 3 Types Of Dementia?

  • Examples of primary dementia are vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease dementia, lewy body dementia, fronto-temporal dementia and mixed dementia. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease dementia occurs due to build-up of some abnormal proteins in the brain that disrupt the communication between nerve cells.
  • Alzheimer’s disease dementia symptoms include short-term memory loss, confusion, and personality and behavior changes.
  • Vascular dementia is due to damage to blood vessels in the brain due to strokes, atherosclerosis.
  • Symptoms of vascular dementia include memory loss, confusion, trouble concentrating and completing a task.
  • Lewy body dementia occurs due to build-up of lewy bodies in the brain that damage the nerve cells. 
  • Symptoms of lewy dementia include movement balance problems, changes in sleep patterns, memory loss, and problem solving difficulties, visual hallucinations and delusions.
  • FTD occurs due to damage to the frontal and temporal part of the brain and leads to changes in social behavior, personality and loss of language skills.
  • Examples of secondary dementia are Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Wenicke-Korsakoff syndrome etc.
  • Reversible dementia is due to normal pressure hydrocephalus, vitamin deficiency, infections, metabolic and endocrine conditions etc.

How Can Dementia Be Diagnosed?

  • Laboratory tests
  • Imaging tests
  • Neurocognitive tests
  • Psychiatric evaluation

Can Dementia And Depression Be Treated?

All forms of dementia are treatable, by medication or some measures that help to manage the symptoms. But most types of dementia can’t be cured or reversed. However, dementia that are not reversible respond to medications that treat memory loss or behavior problems. Some of these dementia are AIDS dementia complex, multi-infarct vascular dementia, dementia associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and so on…

Depression requires long-term treatment, one cannot just snap out of it on one’s own. It is treatable with medications and psychotherapy both.

How Can Dementia And Depression Be Prevented?

Living a health-focused lifestyle is helpful in preventing some types of dementia although dementia is unpreventable and can’t totally be eradicated. Tips to prevent dementia and depression-

  • Active lifestyle
  • No smoking
  • Keeping healthy blood sugar levels
  • Maintaining normal blood pressure
  • Keeping blood vessels free of cholesterol build-up
  • Keeping weight healthy
  • Drinking copious amounts of water
  • Taking a healthy diet
  • Keeping brain engaged in positive and mindful work
  • Exercise
  • Staying socially engaged 
  • Not being isolated
  • Consulting psychologist, psychotherapist and psychiatrist at earliest possible

All the above factors help in keeping stress at bay and keeps the brain fueled with oxygen and nutrients both of which can work wonders in an individual’s health and keep him away from dementia or depression.

What Are The Risk Factors For Dementia And Depression?

  • Older people have more chances of dementia and depression.
  • Those with a family history of dementia and depression are more likely to transfer it to their coming generations.
  • Those with Down’s syndrome might develop Alzheimer’s disease on growing up which might cause dementia or depression in some form.
  • Severe brain injury makes a person prone to develop dementia, some brain disease or depression.
  • Depression can happen at any age, can even begin in teenage.
  • Personality traits like low self-esteem, pessimistic nature can cause depression.
  • Traumatic conditions such as sexual abuse in childhood, death of a loved one early, financial problem etc., can be a trigger of depression in an otherwise healthy individual.
  • Certain mental health disorders, anxiety disorders etc., cause depression.
  • Agitated individual
  • Melancholy in individual

For more risk factors refer to WHO

What Are The Complications Of Dementia And Depression?

When brain functions decline due to dementia or depression, overall body functions are at risk as brain and body are interconnected. 

  • Dehydration
  • Bed sores
  • Injuries
  • Bone fractures from falls
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Kidney failure
  • Pneumonia 
  • Sepsis
  • Weight gain
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Social phobia
  • Panic disorder
  • Social isolation
  • Conflicts in gatherings
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicidal feelings or attempts
  • Premature death from medical conditions

When Should One See A Doctor If He Has Symptoms Of Dementia Or Depression?

  • Changes in memory
  • Changes in mental functioning
  • Ability to perform everyday tasks gets difficult
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • One attempts suicide 
  • Lack of interest in daily work
  • Trouble sleeping (Read our blog on how time management & sleep can work wonders for you)
  • Eating disorder
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Socially isolated person
  • Feeling of sadness, hopelessness
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Trouble of back pain and stress in body
  • Concentrating problems
  • Extremely sensitive child or teen
  • Avoiding social interaction

What Is The Life Expectancy For A Person Suffering Dementia And Depression?

  • Both dementia and depression are umbrella terms that cover many types of underlying neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Both dementia and depression have different types and risk factors.
  • Both have a unique pattern of development in each person.
  • However these are both treatable to some extent so they are not life-threatening diseases.
  • Average lifespan of a person with dementia and depression is still good once treatment is initiated or started.

To know more, read medical-awareness information on Depression

Visit Project Global Cure to read more blogs on health and healthcare related information.

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