Dementia symptoms linked to class of drugs used for wide range of conditions in the elderly, including insomnia, asthma

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An estimated 1 in 4 older adults take anticholinergic drugs — a wide-ranging class of medications used to treat allergies, insomnia, leaky bladders, diarrhea, dizziness, motion sickness, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and various psychiatric disorders.

Anticholinergic medications target acetylcholine, an important chemical messenger in the parasympathetic nervous system that dilates blood vessels and regulates muscle contractions, bodily secretions and heart rate, among other functions. In the brain, acetylcholine plays a key role in attention, concentration, and memory formation and consolidation.

Unfortunately, “physicians often attribute anticholinergic symptoms in elderly people to aging or age-related illness rather than the effects of drugs,” according to a research review by physicians at the Medical University of South Carolina and in Britain.

Attention is turning to how best to wean older adults off anticholinergics, and whether doing so might improve cognition or prevent dementia.

Researchers at Indiana University’s School of Medicine hope to answer these questions in two new studies, starting this fall, supported by $6.8 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging.

Related article:  Could ‘aggressively’ attacking high blood pressure prevent cognitive decline?

Read full, original post: In older adults, some drugs may produce symptoms that imitate dementia

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