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While you may think of depression as nothing more than simply feeling blue, the truth is that the dangers of persistent feelings of sadness go far beyond the mind.
In fact, it’s already been shown that people who live with depression are at far higher risk of chronic disease and even early death.
However, what we didn’t know was why…
But that’s all changed thanks to groundbreaking research from a team of scientists at the University of Connecticut who have discovered an undeniable link between depression, disease and death in something called senescent cells.
Old, malfunctioning cells
While ‘senescent’ sounds like a big word, it really just means a cell in the body that has gotten old and is no longer working properly.
Put simply, when a cell gets old, it begins to function differently and much less efficiently than a “young” cell.
When this happens, the aging cell begins to produce proteins that lead to damage, promote inflammation and other unhealthy conditions, and block the replication of stem cells — the cells in your body that are capable of promoting the regeneration of tissue, even your blood.
So it’s no surprise that these proteins that wreak so much havoc can be measured in the blood. And it’s a fact that the Connecticut researchers used to finally nail down the connection depression has to death and disease…
The depression/senescence link
The team took blood from 426 people with late-in-life depression. They measured the levels of proteins associated with aging in each person’s blood. They then compared those levels with measures of the participant’s overall health, medical problems, brain function and the severity of their depression.
And sure enough…
The researchers discovered that older adults with depression have more senescent cells than their peers. In other words, people who live with depression are actually aging faster than those without depression.
And according to the researchers, this holds no matter the severity of the depression experienced.
Additionally, the results showed that:
- Accelerated aging was associated with worse overall heart health.
- People with higher levels of aging-associated proteins were more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and multiple medical problems.
- An increase of the proteins from senescent cells was associated with worse performance on tests of brain health, like working memory and other cognitive skills.
That last one — poor brain health due to accelerated aging — is what the researchers believe is the main link to depression.
And it’s why the team is now looking at whether therapies to reduce the number of aged, “senescent” cells in a person’s body can improve late-in-life depression. They are also looking at specific sources and patterns of proteins associated with aging, to see if this might lead to personalized treatments in the future.
Keeping your cells youthful
If you suffer from depression, the most important thing to do is to talk to someone about it. Seniors often face unique hurdles that can compound loneliness and the depression that comes with it. That’s why getting involved in your community and staying in touch with family and friends is very important.
Additionally, there are a few ways we can work at promoting our cellular health until those scientists come through with personalized treatments they plan to pursue…
- Fisetin – This natural compound found in foods like strawberries has been shown in two separate studies to be a senotherapeutic capable of specifically targeting only senescent cells to rein in the damage and slow aging.
- Resveratrol – Found in red wine, the skin of grapes and dark chocolate, resveratrol doesn’t reduce the number of senescent cells, but instead helps trigger their rejuvenation, so that they can begin to act like young cells again.
- Grape seed extract – One of the polyphenols found in grape seeds, known as PCC1, has been shown to specifically promote the death of senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected.
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Depressed, and aging fast — ScienceDaily