November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, bringing a critical focus on the most prevalent form of dementia. The connection between specific medications and dementia is an area of concern we cannot overlook, especially as you get older or need to care for aging loved ones. This post will explain how some drugs might inadvertently elevate dementia risk and what steps you can take to mitigate it.
The Alarming Correlation Between Medication and Dementia Risk
While there is no definitive confirmation, a growing body of research links two drug classes to an increased dementia risk. Specifically, the American Geriatrics Society cautions against prescribing anticholinergics and benzodiazepines to older adults when possible. Recognizing the symptoms commonly associated with dementia, such as confusion and memory loss, is crucial for understanding their potential impact.
Anticholinergics: A Double-Edged Sword
Anticholinergics, designed to inhibit the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, serve a range of purposes. However, their association with a heightened dementia risk is a significant concern. Drugs within this category include certain antidepressants, antiparkinsonians, antipsychotics, antiepileptic drugs and bladder control medications.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a nearly 50% increase in dementia risk among adults aged 55 and older who took anticholinergics daily for three years. As part of this drug class, over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl and NyQuil may also increase dementia rates.
Benzodiazepines: A Risky Choice for Seniors
Benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed for conditions like anxiety and insomnia, significantly increase dementia risk in older adults. They can also be habit-forming. Dementia risk intensifies with higher doses and longer usage durations, as indicated in a study from the Journal of Clinical Neurology.
If you are assisting a loved one with their medication regimen, you must discuss the potential dementia risks with their health provider. Understanding which prescription drugs link to dementia can lead to safer medication choices, particularly for our vulnerable senior population. Balancing the therapeutic benefits against the risks is essential in ensuring the best possible care.
Making Informed Choices in Medication and Health
As we observe Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, let’s commit to increased vigilance and informed decision-making regarding medication use, especially in the context of aging and dementia risk. The knowledge of drugs linked to dementia is a powerful tool in safeguarding the cognitive health of our loved ones. Remember, a conversation with a health professional can be the first step toward safer, more effective treatment strategies for those at risk.
This month and beyond, share this potentially lifesaving information with anyone who may benefit. Reach out to Hope by the Sea to learn more about our levels of care and specialty programming.