Dementia is one of the cruelest diseases known to man. Witnessing the gradual mental decline of a loved one’s cognitive abilities and social skills can be an extremely sad and disheartening experience.
Throughout the years, researchers have speculated that there may be a link between depression and developing dementia at a later age.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 40% of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease also have depression—and a recent study shows that depression may actually be a risk factor for dementia.
The Depression-Dementia Link
In a study published in the July 2014 issue of the journal Neurology, lead researcher Robert S. Wilson observed 1,700 elderly individuals who had no signs of dementia or depression.Wilson tested each individual for symptoms once a year for about eight years, and also viewed the autopsy reports for those who passed away during the testing phase.Wilson discovered that 18% of the participants who either passed away or were still living with developed dementia. Participants who were diagnosed with dementia also had higher levels of depression-like symptoms before the dementia settled in, compared to the other participants.There is no firm evidence as to why depression is linked to dementia, although a few theories have popped up. For example, depression or heavy stress can damage the brain over time; heavy depression can lead to excessive amounts of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain. This hormone will eventually interfere with the neurotransmitters’ activities, which can then lead to memory loss and dementia.
Treating Depression before Dementia Surfaces
It is important to discuss any depression-like symptoms with your doctor or health practitioner in order to establish an appropriate routine that will benefit you. In addition, there are a few natural treatments you can incorporate into your lifestyle to combat depression symptoms:1. Eating healthy: Although there is no special type of food that will cure your depression, I suggest keeping a food journal to monitor what you eat and how often you eat. In some cases, people can overeat when they are depressed, so keeping track of your eating habits will be beneficial. Furthermore, increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet to receive brain-boosting properties that will help fight depression symptoms.
2. Exercise: When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which have been proven to trigger positive feelings in the body.
3. Get rid of negative thoughts: When someone is depressed, their thoughts tend to be pessimistic. The mind can play “mental games,” so it is important to channel your thinking into something positive. When negative thoughts bombard you, focus your mind on something good that happened to you that day.
4. Take responsibility: Depression essentially tells your mind that you cannot accomplish anything and that you are completely useless. Prove to yourself that you are not useless—set your mind on something (i.e. taking a course, finishing a project, or writing a book) and finish it. The feeling of accomplishment will boost your confidence.
5. Have a good time: Try to incorporate new and fun activities into your daily life, no matter how small or insignificant these activities may seem. Try a different flavor of coffee one day or take a different route home from work on another day. Better yet, instead of driving, try walking home—you’ll incorporate exercise into your daily life and enjoy the beauty of nature. The more you try to have fun, the better your chances will be of actually having fun.
Bowers, E.S., “Depression as a Risk Factor for Dementia,” Everyday Health web site, October 15, 2014; http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/depression-risk-factor-dementia/.
Griffin, R.M., “10 Natural Depression Treatments,” WebMD web site, May 17, 2015; http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments.