Investigators found the age of onset of AD is about 2 years earlier among patients with depression and 3 years earlier among those with anxiety vs those without these disorders. In addition, having more than one psychiatric diagnosis pushes the age of AD onset even earlier.
The findings underline the importance of screening for cognitive decline in older patients, including those with psychiatric conditions, study author Zachary A. Miller, MD, associate professor of neurology, University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, told Medscape Medical News.
“I think that as part of healthy aging, we should be doing some level of screening for cognition, just like everyone should get a colonoscopy at age 50,” said Miller.
Patients should be monitored if they have symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if these are not well treated.
“We think that when AD begins, it attacks or starts very early on in lower regions of the brain, the mid-brain and brain stem areas, and that some of the earliest pathological symptomatic features of AD may actually be things like a depressive prodrome. But it could be that having a history of depression taxes those same areas that makes patients more vulnerable to getting AD,” he said.