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Treating patients who have diabetes and depression for both conditions can reduce the incidences of dementia in this comorbid population, according to a study by the University of Washington and Kaiser Permanente.

In fact, researchers say that for patients with type 2 diabetes, “comorbid depression was associated with an approximately two-fold increased risk of dementia compared to patients with diabetes alone,” according to “Diabetes & Aging,” a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that was released in December.

“Since depression affects up to 20 percent of diabetic patients, it is critical to understand this relationship and further evaluate whether depression interventions have an impact on dementia in patients with diabetes,” says Andrew J. Karter, PhD, of the Kaiser Division of Research. He is one of the authors.

Those interventions could include use of antidepressants. “Among patients with diabetes, depression is associated with poorer adherence to diet and exercise programs, increased smoking and poorer blood sugar control and psychobiologic changes such as increases in cortisol and increased sympathetic nervous system tone, which could worsen the course of diabetes and increase the risk of dementia associated with depression,” the authors say.

The data were collected by studying about 20,000 Kaiser Permanente members. The baseline survey was done in 2005 and 2006. “Diabetes & Aging” is a three- to five-year follow-up from that baseline.

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