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How struggling with depression increases your risk of UK’s biggest killer

HAVING depression significantly increases the risk of developing a killer illness, research has revealed.

A study looked at the health records of more than 500,000 Brits to assess how depression affected the affected the risk of a brain-wasting disease.

Dementia is UK’s biggest single killer, yet there is no effective treatment to tackle the disease

It found that depression increased the risk of dementia by 51 per cent.

Around 850,000 Brits currently have dementia — and the figure is expected to hit one million within a decade.

The research, published in Biological Psychiatry, suggested that the degree of risk depended on how severe the depression is.

Those most at risk were those with chronic depression –  low mood that lasts for weeks or months and affects daily life – or depression which increased in severity over time.

Meanwhile, those with mild to moderate depression which decreased over a lifetime experienced no greater dementia risk than participants without depression.

Despite it being the UK’s biggest single killer, there is still currently no effective treatment to tackle the disease.

Researchers from China wanted to see if treating depression may help prevent cases of the incurable brain disease.

Overall, depressed participants who received treatment for their low mood had reduced risk of dementia compared to untreated participants by about 30 per cent.

John Krystal, editor of the Biological Psychiatry said: “Once again, the course of ineffectively treated depression carries significant medical risk.”

Lead author of the study Professor Wei Cheng of Fudan University said: “[The results] indicate that timely treatment of depression is needed among those with late-life depression.

“Providing depression treatment for those with late-life depression might not only remit affective symptoms but also postpone the onset of dementia,” he added.

How is dementia treated?

There is no specific treatment for dementia and no way to reverse the damage to the brain that has already occurred.

However, treatment may help slow down the progression of the condition and the main aim is to treat the underlying cause to help prevent further problems, such as strokes.

Medicines and lifestyle changes will be encouraged including eating healthily, losing weight if necessary, stop smoking, get fit and cutting down on alcohol.

Support such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy is also beneficial, but despite treatment dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy.

The average survival time from diagnosis is around four years and most people will die either from complications of dementia, such as pneumonia, or from a subsequent stroke

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