Medications that might increase risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s

One of the most terrifying aspects of getting older is the possibility of degenerative brain disease. Though science has made huge strides in understanding such conditions, there are no cures, and no way to completely prevent the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, researchers continue to uncover more risk factors for seniors, and it just so happens that some common medications may contribute to degenerative brain disease. SEE ALSO: Common anxiety and sleep aid linked to Alzheimer’s disease According to research from Shelly Gray, a professor in the University of Washington School of Pharmacy in Seattle, and her team, high use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids may increase an older adult’s risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. “We have known for some time that even single doses of these medications can cause impairment in cognition, slower reaction time, [and] reduced attention and ability to concentrate,” Gray told Live Science “The thinking was that these cognitive effects were reversible when you stopped taking the medication.” Anticholinergic is the term used to describe a medication that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that plays a role in muscle movement, memory, mood, and learning, among other things.  Because of the role acetylcholine plays in the body, medications that block it often cause side effects such as drowsiness, constipation, retaining urine, and dry mouth and eyes. “Older adults should be aware that many medications – including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids – have strong anticholinergic effects,” Gray said in a university press release. “If providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient, they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it’s working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective.” According to Gray’s findings, people taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin, 4 mg/day of chlorpheniramine, or 5 mg/day of oxybutynin (the medications most commonly evaluated in the research) for more than three years would be at greater risk for developing dementia. Some of the medications, like the OTC allergy medication, chlorpheniramine, are prone to chronic use because the conditions they treat are chronic. SEE ALSO: What yellow spice may help treat Alzheimer’s While there are alternative medications out there, unfortunately not everyone can totally eliminate anticholinergic medications from their treatment routine–nor should they. “No one should stop taking any therapy without consulting their health care provider,” said Gray. “Healthcare providers should regularly review their older patients’ drug regimens, including over-the-counter medications, to look for chances to use fewer anticholinergic medications at lower doses.”The post Medications that might increase risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s appeared first on Voxxi.
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Some common OTC medications could increase degenerative brain disease risk. (Shutterstock)

One of the most terrifying aspects of getting older is the possibility of degenerative brain disease. Though science has made huge strides in understanding such conditions, there are no cures, and no way to completely prevent the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Thankfully, researchers continue to uncover more risk factors for seniors, and it just so happens that some common medications may contribute to degenerative brain disease.

SEE ALSO: Common anxiety and sleep aid linked to Alzheimer’s disease

According to research from Shelly Gray, a professor in the University of Washington School of Pharmacy in Seattle, and her team, high use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids may increase an older adult’s risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have known for some time that even single doses of these medications can cause impairment in cognition, slower reaction time, [and] reduced attention and ability to concentrate,” Gray told Live Science “The thinking was that these cognitive effects were reversible when you stopped taking the medication.”

Anticholinergic is the term used to describe a medication that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that plays a role in muscle movement, memory, mood, and learning, among other things.  Because of the role acetylcholine plays in the body, medications that block it often cause side effects such as drowsiness, constipation, retaining urine, and dry mouth and eyes.

“Older adults should be aware that many medications – including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids – have strong anticholinergic effects,” Gray said in a university press release.

“If providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient, they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it’s working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective.”

Pills have many side effects
Among those pills linked to dementia are sleep aids. (Shutterstock)

According to Gray’s findings, people taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin, 4 mg/day of chlorpheniramine, or 5 mg/day of oxybutynin (the medications most commonly evaluated in the research) for more than three years would be at greater risk for developing dementia. Some of the medications, like the OTC allergy medication, chlorpheniramine, are prone to chronic use because the conditions they treat are chronic.

SEE ALSO: What yellow spice may help treat Alzheimer’s

While there are alternative medications out there, unfortunately not everyone can totally eliminate anticholinergic medications from their treatment routine–nor should they.

“No one should stop taking any therapy without consulting their health care provider,” said Gray. “Healthcare providers should regularly review their older patients’ drug regimens, including over-the-counter medications, to look for chances to use fewer anticholinergic medications at lower doses.”

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The post Medications that might increase risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s appeared first on Voxxi.