You misplace your glasses… mix up your doctor’s appointments… and can’t remember if you’ve taken your daily pills or not.
As we age, there sure are a lot of daily details to keep track of, and everyone fumbles them from time to time.
But if your memory “hiccups” happen more and more often, you may worry that something more serious is setting in.
Yesterday, I shared how hearing loss can drain your brain. Fortunately, using a hearing aid seems to stop that cognitive decline in its tracks.
But according to a new study, there might be something else behind those “brain burps” – and you’re going to want to check your pill box after you read this.
You see, a class of drugs called “anticholinergics” are prescribed for everything from depression to bladder control issues, and the latest research shows that taking them – taking ANY of them — can raise your risk of dementia.
In a study out of the UK, researchers compared the medical records of about 40,000 dementia patients to those of about 300,000 folks without dementia.
It turned out that those who’d been prescribed anticholinergic drugs — especially certain anti-depressants and drugs for urinary problems — were nearly a third MORE likely to have developed dementia than those who hadn’t.
Now, the study didn’t prove that the drugs CAUSED the greater likelihood of dementia, just that the two factors are associated.
It could be that the symptoms that led these patients to be prescribed anticholinergics in the first place were in fact early signs of dementia.
But I’d say that’s unlikely — because previous studies have shown an association between dementia and over-the-counter anticholinergics for everything from allergies (Benadryl) to motion sickness (Dramamine).
And we know that allergies and motion sickness certainly aren’t early warning signs of dementia!
Now, anticholinergics work by blocking nerve impulses and preventing a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine from doing its job.
And studies have shown that people with dementia have a massive shortage of acetylcholine in their brains.
Sounds like a smoking gun to me!
What’s more, since they cause your body’s “cholinergic” system — which regulates your heart and other body systems — to go haywire, they can cause your blood pressure to skip all over the map and ramp up inflammation.
Those changes not only add to your chances of dementia … they also DOUBLE your stroke risk!
What’s really scary is that because they’re not always labeled as such, you could be taking an anticholinergic drug… or more than one… without even knowing it.
Nearly 40 percent of seniors are!
So, if you want to hold onto your precious memories, make sure that the prescriptions in your medicine cabinet AREN’T anticholinergics.
And if they are, see if your doc can switch you to non-anticholinergic options — better yet, talk to a doc well-versed in integrative medicine to treat your underlying issues naturally.
You should also take stock of any OTC meds you’ve got lying around.
In addition to allergy and motion sickness meds, many common sleep aids (Sominex, Tylenol PM) and cold medicines (Dimetapp) are also anticholinergics.