Local News

Duke Researchers Studying Vascular Depression

Posted June 18, 2002

— Most people expect to have some health problems, such as heart disease, cancer or Alzheimer's disease, as they get older, but depression is very common among the elderly. A new study puts a new spin on strokes and depression.

About 10 years ago, researchers at Duke noticed that up to 40 percent of their elderly patients who suffered from depression had one thing in common. Some tests scans revealed areas in their brains that had not received enough blood supply, and those patients were suffering silent strokes in the brain.

Doctors call the condition vascular depression -- strokes that only affect the areas that control emotion.

Symptoms are much different than classic depression. Patients with vascular depression do not feel depressed. Instead, they notice a loss of interest in their favorite activities and their cognitive function slows. Most patients do not respond to antidepressants.

Dr. Murali Doraiswamy is studying people with vascular depression. He wants to see if tests can predict who will respond to medication and which ones work best. He also hopes the research will spread the word about vascular depression.

"We've been focusing a lot of attention on how to be heart-healthy. I think the next decade is going to be how to keep our brain healthy," he said.

Health experts said most patients are in their 50s, 60s and 70s and have never been depressed before. Risk factors for vascular depression include high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and uncontrolled diabetes.

For more information on research for vascular depression, you can call

(919) 668-2583

.

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