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Press Release

May 07, 2012

OAKLAND, Calif. – Depressive symptoms that occur in both midlife and latelife are associated with an increased risk of developing vascular dementia, while symptoms that occur in latelife only are more likely to be early signs of Alzheimer's disease, according to University of California at San Franciscoand Kaiser Permanente researchers.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, is the first to examine whether midlife or late-life depression is more likely to lead to either Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia in the long term. The researchers explain that vascular dementia, the second most common type of dementia, develops when impaired blood flow to parts of the brain deprives cells of nutrients and oxygen. 

"People who had depressive symptoms in both midlife and latelife were much more likely to develop vascular dementia, while those who had depressive symptoms in latelife only were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease," said the study's lead author Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, with the UCSF Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology & Biostatistics and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

"The findings have important public health implications because they raise hope that adequate treatment of depression in midlife may reduce dementia risk, particularly vascular dementia, later in life," added Rachel Whitmer, PhD, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and the principal investigator of the study.