A new study has suggested that symptoms of depression could indicate a future Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Over a period of seven years, scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine examined over 2,400 seniors, half of whom developed dementia.
The patients who eventually received a dementia diagnosis exhibited behavioral and emotional symptoms, such as apathy, irritability and depression, sooner than those who never got dementia. 30 percent of people who later developed dementia experienced symptoms of depression; only 15 percent of those who did not get dementia had depression. Earlier studies have shown that 90 percent of Alzheimer’s patients demonstrate non-cognitive symptoms like depression.
In this new study, non-cognitive symptoms unfolded in three phases:
-First: Irritability, depression, and behavior changes during the night
-Second: Anxiety, appetite changes, agitation and apathy
-Third: Elation, mobility disorders, hallucinations, delusions and impulsive behavior
However, the authors recommend caution in determining a dementia diagnosis based on these factors alone. “Don’t look at any of these as pointing to a higher risk of dementia,” said author Dr. Catherine Roe. “People can be depressed of have lack of energy for many reasons. But this helps give us a clearer picture of what early Alzheimer’s disease looks like.”
Roe stressed the importance of consulting with a health care professional if you or someone you love begins to display these symptoms. She also discussed the study’s possible clinical applications, suggesting that cognitive screenings for patients exhibiting symptoms of depression might be useful.