NEW research has found a link between long-term use of high dose anticholinergic drugs and a higher risk of dementia in older adults.
Published in the journal “Aging”, the new study highlights the importance of continuing to examine medication use and effects for all conditions as we age.
Anticholinergic agents work by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and are integral to many different medications – both prescription and over the counter.
Some conditions commonly treat with anticholinergics are overactive bladder, seasonal allergies, insomnia and depression. Medications with these properties are used by between eight and 37 per cent of older adults.
Tricyclic antidepressants, first-generation antihistamines and antimuscarinics for bladder control were the medications examined in this study.
These results are a good reminder of the need to regularly assess medication use and of the need for health care professionals to educate patients of potential risks and make an effort to minimize their use when possible.
In many cases such as with antidepressants and sleep medications, there may be alternative medicines available that do not use anticholinergic agents and may be a better treatment option.
Ongoing research and the newer medications for many common disorders will also help.