Worldwide, about 50 million people have dementia, a condition that’s characterized by a decline in memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint different causes and they may have found one.
Could the drugs you take put you at risk for dementia?
In a review of 21 studies, scientists found a 46% increase risk for dementia if you take anticholinergics drugs for three months or longer. And the longer you take them, the greater the risk.
“Instead of waiting for disease to happen, let’s try to prevent it from happening first,” said Dr. James Galvin, a neurologist at the University of Miami Health System.
Anticholinergics are common medicines. In fact, about one out of every three drugs prescribed for men and women over age 65 are this type.
Some examples include: antidepressants, such as Paxil, Parkinson’s drugs, anti-psychotic meds like clozapine, urinary bladder relaxers like enablex, some anti-nausea drugs, asthma meds, muscle relaxants, antihistamines -- including Benadryl -- and anti-seizure drugs.
The American Geriatrics Society strongly recommends that older adults avoid using these medicines, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.
Anticholinergics block a chemical called acetylcholine that’s related to a person’s ability to pay attention, learn, remember, and control muscle functions. Not all anticholinergics are linked to increased dementia risk, but the ones that affect primarily the brain are of greatest concern.