A large number of people in late 60s suffer from dementia. By many researchers women are those who suffer more or get the worse type of dementia. They become more distracted, lose their short-term memory, and could not concentrate when being examined by professionals.
A doctor from Indiana University School of Medicine proved that another factor affects this situation. A female patient was examined. It was a woman who was taking various medications such as antihistamines for itching, seasonal allergies medicine called Benadryl, and also medications for changing mood and for urinary problems. All these medications in some cases have a significant impact on cognitive functions.
Soon after the medications to this woman took off by the doctors giving her a substitute treatment by which her difficulties improved. After six months she fully recovered from her dementia symptoms, by which Dr. Boustani proved that medication cause or just give dementia symptoms.
The American Geriatrics Society has published a list in 2002 of anticholinergics harmful for seniors, because they are mostly affected by the negative drugs effects.
Actually, there are a few things that seniors should know about:
- What is the base of these medications?
Acetylcholine is a chemical very important for the transmission of messages to the parasympathetic nervous system that regulates a lot of body functions such as blood flow, muscle contractions, heart rate, etc. it is also very important for good concentration, memory and attention.
A lot of medications have stronger effects than others. Antidepressants such as imipramine, antihistamine, antispasmodic, and drugs for the urinary problem are on top of the list. Usually, they cause common side effects such as dizziness, disorientation, unclear vision, dry mouth, confusion and many more.
Seniors are more sensitive to these medications because their brain produces less acetylcholine and blood- brain barrier can be crossed easily. So no matter that there are a lot of evidence, the doctors still contribute dementia to age, not medications.
- What are the Long-Term Effects?
Some researchers in the 1970s proved that a low level of the enzyme that synthesizes brain acetylcholine is usually present to those people with Alzheimer’s disease. They warned doctors not to put seniors on drugs with acetylcholine, especially those with cognitive dysfunction. But some of the doctors had the opposite meaning. Their theory was that these medications have short-term effects and the patients get back to their former state after the treatment.
A large concern was raised when in the year 2000 part of the researchers had clear evidence that the long term effect of the anticholinergic was even more dangerous than they supposed. Medications actually cause death of brain neurons which has a higher risk of developing into dementia. All this was proved by a research published in JAMA Internal Medicine where over 284,000 seniors aged 55 and more were examined. And the results have shown that even 49% of the seniors taking these drugs for almost three years increased their dementia risk.
All in all, there are no proofs that these drugs cause dementia, only just they increase the risk of it. One in three seniors suffers from these long term effects.
- Can harm be prevented?
The most important issue is whether help seniors avoid these medications and if this avoidance will improve their cognitive health and prevent dementia.
Researchers started some study in order to find the right answer. They were supposed to examine 344 seniors who have cognitive problems and are taking anticholinergics medications at the same time. The pharmacist will observe these people for two years, and they will be tested every six months. The final aim will be to examine if there is a positive change in the brain cells and if the cognitive state is also improved.
Another important fact is to raise awareness to seniors for potential risks of medications, and to try to initiate them to start conversations for the whole situation and the consequences of taking these drugs. But the best treatment is always the solution.
- What is the best advice?
Seniors should think twice for taking these medications, they should keep in mind not only the risks but also the benefits of them. Sometimes they get addicted to them besides the negative effects as dizziness and confusion. Not always all the drugs are brain safe.
Doctors need to pay attention only to patients who have risks or symptoms for dementia, not to give such medications to them. Just only if they are sure if there would not be harmful for their memory and cognition.
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