Study Finds Widely Prescribed Class of Meds Might Raise Dementia Risk

My doctors always advise me that medications are meant to help me live better not longer. I always walk away from the experience scratching my head a bit because most of my medications have made me live longer but worse than before. The worst part of taking medication daily is remembering to take medication daily. It seems like such a simple task, but part of my brain still fights that I even have to take medications in the first place.


The second worst part of taking daily medications to live better are the side effects, especially interactions with other drugs. Some of the news is easy to ignore, and to a certain extent makes me laugh. For every story I read about the harmful effects of drinking coffee daily, there is another one saying daily coffee consumption would kill me. What kills me, however, is skipping a cup, the headache is the worst.


There is news you should pay attention to and at least discuss with your doctor if it raises any concern with the management of any of your health conditions.


Talk to your doctor about anticholinergic drugs

Anticholinergics are a widely used class of drugs that doctors believe may be linked to the risk of dementia in older patients. These drugs help contract and relax muscles by blocking a chemical, acetylcholine, that transmits messages in the nervous system.


  •       A new British study found that people aged 55 and older who took strong anticholinergic medications daily for three years or more had a 50% increased risk of dementia.

(SOURCE: Gayatri Devi, M.D., Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; University of Nottingham, news release, June 24, 2019)


This class of drugs are prescribed to treat depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, overactive bladder, allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders. Common drug names for anticholinergics are Benadryl (diphenhydramine), some antipsychotics, and anti-Parkinson’s and epilepsy medications. Individuals who take these medications often report confusion and memory loss as a short-term side effect.


  •       In the one to 11 years before dementia diagnosis or the equivalent in controls, nearly 57% of dementia patients and 51% of people in the control group were prescribed at least one strong anticholinergic drug, with an average of six prescriptions in dementia patients and four in controls. (SOURCE: Gayatri Devi, M.D., Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; University of Nottingham, news release, June 24, 2019)


Dementia explained

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. The disease becomes progressively worse. Memory loss and problems thinking are symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.


Proceed with Caution

If you are currently taking any medication in the anticholinergics class do not stop taking your medications without consulting your doctor. As you may have already guessed abrupt changes to your medications does not help you live better, it causes a great deal of discomfort.

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