Depression in later life may be caused by hardened arteries

December 19, 2000

A neuropathological study of vascular factors in late-life depression 2001; 70: 83-7

Some late-life depression is likely to be caused by narrowing and hardening of the brain arteries rather than any chemical or emotional imbalance, reports research in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Depression is predicted to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020. It is currently the fourth.

Researchers from the Institute for the Health of the Elderly at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne carried out post mortem examinations on the brains of 40 people. Twenty of them had had a least one major episode of depression.

There was no evidence of dementia or Alzheimer's disease in the brain tissue: depression is very common among sufferers of these conditions. But there was an excess of sclerosis-narrowed and hardened vessels-in the arteries supplying the brain and within the brain tissue itself of those who had been depressed.

Depression is common after a heart attack or stroke, and previous research has indicated that depression more than triples the risk of dying within the subsequent six months after a heart attack. The authors conclude that their results support the idea of "vascular depression" in which vascular disease in some way predisposes, precipitates, and perpetuates depression.
-end-
Contact:

Dr Alan Thomas, Institute for the Health of the Elderly, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Tel: +44 (0)191 256 3323
Fax: 0191 219 5051
a.j.thomas@ncl.ac.uk

BMJ Specialty Journals

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