So drugs that aren’t such problems earlier in life often have more impact later in life.
Just because you took a drug in your youth or middle years doesn’t mean it’s harmless to continue once you are older.
Notably, there has been a lot of concern in the media about statins, but a meta-analysis published in 2015 could not confirm an association between statin use and increased cognitive impairment.
In fact, a 2016 study found that statin use was associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
First among them: identify medications that make brain function worse. Identifying and reducing such medications is a mainstay of geriatrics practice.
And the expert authors of the National Academy of Medicine report on Cognitive Aging agree: in their Action Guide for Individuals and Families, they list “Manage your medications” among their “Top 3 actions you can take to help protect your cognitive health as you age.” Unfortunately, many older adults are unaware of this recommendation.
Below, I share the most commonly used drugs that you should look out for if you are worried about memory problems. They do work well for this purpose, but they are habit-forming and have been associated with developing dementia. These have been shown in clinical studies to impair thinking — and balance! This means they have the opposite effect of an Alzheimer’s drug like donepezil (brand name Aricept), which is a cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it inhibits the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.
A 2015 study found that greater use of these drugs was linked to a higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Often non-drug alternatives are available, but they may not be offered unless you ask.For a good list that classifies drugs as high or low anticholinergic activity, see here.I reviewed the most commonly used of these drugs in my Next Avenue article, “7 Common Drugs That Are Toxic for Your Brain.” Briefly, drugs of this type to look out for include: For help spotting other anticholinergics, ask a pharmacist or the doctor, or review the list.(Acetylcholine helps the gut keep things moving.) 4. In older adults, these are usually prescribed to manage difficult behaviors related to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.(In a minority of seniors, they are prescribed for serious mental illness such as schizophrenia.