There is plenty of research to support that physical health plays a role in dementia risk. A healthy heart generally helps contribute to a healthy brain. But new work indicates that mental health plays a role too.
The new study adds to some existing evidence that depression is linked to dementia, and it looks at how a person’s mental state earlier in their life plays a role in cognition later in life.
Researchers found that people who feel depressed in early adulthood are more likely to experience lower cognition ten years later and experience faster cognitive decline in old age.
An association also exists between mental state in older adults and dementia risk in old age.
The research team from the University of California – San Francisco used statistical modeling to predict trajectories of depressive symptoms for approximately 15,000 participants aged 20 to 89. They then applied the trajectories to about 6,000 older participants.
Results suggested that the odds of cognitive impairment, which means a lessened ability to form memories, learn information, and make decisions, was 73 percent higher in those who showed elevated depressive symptoms in early adulthood. Those with elevated depressive symptoms later in life have a 43 percent chance of getting dementia.
The findings suggest that the more depressive symptoms a person has, the lower their cognition and the faster it declines.
Regardless of age, it appears that mental health might play just as important a role in dementia risk as physical health. Doing your best to monitor emotions and manage them could help protect your memory and ability to think with age.
There are various things a person can do to help combat depression, including things like building and nurturing personal relationships and social ties, exercise, talk therapy, medication, and more.
If you’re feeling depressed and concerned about how it may impact your mental health later in life, consider exploring treatment options.