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Common Prescription Drugs Linked to Higher Risk for Dementia

The Journal of the American Medal Association has released new research suggesting that the use of common prescription drugs leads to a 50% higher chance of developing dementia. The study, published in June of 2019, found that the common prescription medications linked to the higher risk for dementia included antidepressants, medications for vertigo, motion sickness and overactive bladder.

What do all these medications have in common? All were found to have high levels of anticholinergic agents. These substances are known for blocking a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Measurements by researchers were taken in “doses”-individuals who had more than 1,095 daily doses within a ten year time frame had a 50% higher chance of developing dementia. The equivalent of 1,095 doses would be an older adult taking an anticholinergic medication (like those listed above) on a daily basis for at least three years.

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It’s important to note the conclusions of this study were associative, not causal. The first author of the study, Carol Coupland, says “The study is important because it strengthens a growing body of evidence showing that strong anticholinergic drugs have long-term associations with dementia risk”. Coupland is a professor of medical statistics in primary care at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Additionally, this information will guide physicians’ practice decisions when considering which prescription drug to recommend to patients.

Most important, Coupland emphasizes that individuals currently taking any kind of anticholinergic medications should not cease taking them in light of this information. Any change in prescription drug use should be discussion with a medical professional.

Other prescription drugs researched in the study were antihistamines and muscle relaxants.

At Dolan Memory Care Homes, each house is managed by a nurse who performs medication reconciliations in collaboration with nurse practitioner, physicians and pharmacists to eliminate polypharmacy and to prescribe medications with least negative side effect profiles. Additionally, at Dolan Memory Care Homes, alternative therapies for mood and pain are explored through music therapy, interdisciplinary community involvement, pet therapy, art therapy, massage therapy, aromatherapy along with keen observation to ensure a calm, supportive environment.

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