LIFESTYLE & COMMUNITY

Widely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies Found

Date October 15, 2018

What is dementia and what causes it?

Dementia is a condition in which a person experiences a decline in cognitive functions, such as memory and thinking. Dementia is usually progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. The risk of dementia increases as you age.

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There are different forms of dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer’s disease. Other common forms of dementia include vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. But why exactly do some people develop dementia in older age and some don’t?

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READ ALSO: 7 Not-So-Obvious Symptoms Of Dementia: Recognizing The Devastating Condition Early On

If only we could know it! Causes of dementia are still unknown, but there are certain factors that have been linked to an increased risk of the condition. These factors include physical inactivity, poor diet, poor sleep, and lack of social interactions. Could taking certain medicines also be on this list?

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Studies link widely used medicines to an increase in dementia risk

Two studies linked taking anticholinergic medicines to a higher risk of dementia. Anticholinergic medicines act by blocking acetylcholine. In the brain, this chemical plays a role in memory and learning. In the rest of the body, it plays a role in muscle movement.

Anticholinergic medicines include tricyclic antidepressants, drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, drugs for urinary incontinence, and certain antihistamines, including diphenhydramine.

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One study, conducted in 2015, discovered a significantly increased dementia risk in people who take or used to take an anticholinergic. The longer you’ve been taking the medicine, the higher is your risk. Also, a higher dose means a higher risk.

People who used an anticholinergic for 3 years or more had a 54% higher risk of dementia than people who used the same dose of an anticholinergic for 3 months or less.

Widely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundVictor Moussa / Shutterstock.com

Another study, published in 2018, looked at the use of specific anticholinergics and found that using certain medicines for depression, Parkinson’s, and urinary incontinence for more than a year was associated with a 30% increase in the risk of developing dementia.

Widely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundPhotographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

READ ALSO: Study Shows That Married People Are 43% Less Likely To Develop Dementia

What you should (and shouldn’t) do if you’re taking an anticholinergic

If you’re taking an anticholinergic prescribed by your doctor, don’t stop using the medicine without talking to your doctor first.

What you should do instead is ask your doctor whether the benefit of taking this particular medicine outweighs possible risks. Also, ask your doctor if there’s a safer alternative (say, an SSRI instead of a tricyclic antidepressant) and if you can change your dosage.

Widely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundWidely Used Medicines Linked To A Significantly Higher Risk Of Developing Dementia, Studies FoundAndy Dean Photography / Shutterstock.com

Most importantly, don’t forget about other modifiable dementia risk factors. Getting a good sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits will do you a great service in the long run.

READ ALSO: 82-Year-Old Woman With Dementia Changed Her Diet And Regained Her Memory, Her Son Says. Is Alzheimer's Reversible?


This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.