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Association Between Alzheimer's Disease and Depression

Cates, Haley
An estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in the nation, making it the most common neurodegenerative disease in the US. The mortality rate for AD has steadily increased in the last 30 years. Clinical symptoms begin to occur at the age of 65, with recent declarative memory decline as the leading symptom; the further the disease progresses, the greater the depth and type of memory loss that occurs. Along with this, neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and apathy arise. In fact, co-incidence of dementia and depression is common, with 50 percent of patients experiencing an episode of depression during the course of their dementia. Symptoms of depression can include dysphoric mood, losing interest in enjoyable activities, and having difficulties eating and sleeping. Such symptoms can also be symptoms of dementia, making it hard to clinically distinguish between the two. And although depression is a recognized comorbid condition with AD, there have now studies investigating whether depression may also be a risk factor for the development of AD. Subsequently, scientists are now researching whether early intervention of depression has an effect on the risk of developing dementia. Overall, it is important to emphasize that the link between Alzheimer’s Disease and depression is still not well understood and further research in multiple arenas is needed.
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