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(AARP) A common class of drugs used to treat many illnesses may also increase a patient’s risk of dementia by 30 percent.

An estimated 20 to 50 percent of Americans 65 and older take at least one anticholinergic (AN-ti-CALL-in-ER-gic) medication to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, urinary incontinence, epilepsy and allergies.

The research team analyzed the medical records of 40,770 patients ages 65 to 99 who were diagnosed with dementia, and compared them with 283,933 older adults without dementia.

The researchers found greater incidences of dementia among patients prescribed anticholinergic medications than among older adults who were not prescribed these drugs.

These incidences of dementia were found up to 20 years after exposure to the drugs.

“Many people use anticholinergic drugs at some point in their lives, and many are prescribed to manage chronic conditions leading to potentially long exposures,” researchers stated.

By Gatwiri Muthara; read the full story at AARP

Check your meds for these dementia-inducing drugs 

What are anticholinergic drugs? 

(SOURCE: MedicineNet.comAnticholinergic drugs include a broad class of medications that are used to treat various medical conditions that involve contraction and relaxation of muscles.

Examples of these conditions include overactive bladder, muscle spasms, breathing problems, diarrhea, gastrointestinal cramps, movement disorders, and others. Anticholinergics work by blocking the action of acetylcholine in the brain and at nerves.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals made and released by nerves that travel to nearby nerves or, in the case of acetylcholine, nearby muscles and glands where they attach to receptors on the surface of the nerve, muscle or glandular cells. The attachment of the neurotransmitter can stimulate or inhibit the activity of the receptor-containing cells.

Anticholinergic drugs affect the function of many organs by preventing acetylcholine from binding to its receptors.

Anticholinergic drugs decrease the activity of muscles in the gut and reduce production of sweat, saliva, digestive juices, urine, and tears.

Additionally, anticholinergic drugs help to balance the production of dopamine, another neurotransmitter that plays an important role in maintaining mood, movement, memory, attention, problem solving, motivation, and pleasure.

In addition to drugs that are primarily anticholinergic, there are drugs used for purposes other than nerve, muscle, or glandular problems which have some anticholinergic effects that are considered side effects, for example, antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs.

Anticholinergic activity drugs

  • Parkinson’s medications
  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • trihexyphenidyl (Artane)
  • benztropine mesylate (Cogentin)
  • antipsychotics
  • clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • clozapine (Clozaril, Fazaclo ODT, Versacloz)
  • olanzapine (Zyprexa, Symbyax)
  • pimozide (Orap)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)

Read the full story at AARP. 


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