Losing your memory might not be the first clue that Alzheimer’s is lurking: Other seemingly unrelated symptoms can hint at the disease years before you actually get a diagnosis , suggests new research from Washington University.
In the study, participants without dementia answered several questions about a variety of non-cognitive symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, delusions, or agitation. The researchers found that people who experienced the symptoms were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s down the line.
In fact, subjects with signs of depression were twice as likely to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis over an average follow-up of 4 years, while people who reported delusions were over 12 times as likely.
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The researchers aren’t exactly sure why there’s such an overlap in symptoms, but it’s possible that some of them—particularly depression—may develop as a result of Alzheimer’s. It just might be that when those signs first pop up, the disease hasn’t yet progressed to the point where it causes the hallmark memory-loss symptoms. However, more research is needed to determine which actually comes first.
Important note: Not all of the people who reported these mental symptoms went on to develop the disease. But those who did had one thing in common: They experienced the signs much more suddenly, says study author Catherine Roe, Ph.D.
So if you start to feel the blues or find yourself worrying excessively about simple things, there’s no need to panic, she says. There are tons of reasons you could be feeling that way—it definitely doesn’t mean Alzheimer’s is in your future.
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