Want to keep your brain — or the brain of someone you love — as healthy as possible?
Then it’s essential to know which commonly used medications affect brain function.
In this article, I’ll go into details regarding a type of medication that I wish all older adults knew about: anticholinergic drugs.
How Anticholinergics Affect the Aging Brain and Body
Anticholinergics are drugs that block acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in the body. This leads to lower brain function, which people often experience as drowsiness.
Sometimes that sedation is why people take the drugs, and a little sleepiness might sound benign. But when the brain is older, or otherwise vulnerable, these drugs can be problematic.
In fact, these literally have the opposite effect of the drugs often used to treat Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine (brand names Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne), for example, are designed to increase acetylcholine by blocking the brain enzyme that breaks it down.
Research has linked anticholinergic drugs to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and also to hospitalizations in older adults. And the American Geriatrics Society has warned about them for years; anticholinergics are definitely on the Beer’s List of medications older adults should avoid or use with caution.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter used in many other parts of the body, including the eyes, mouth, bowels, and bladder. So anticholinergic drugs commonly cause side-effects such as dry eyes, dry mouth, and constipation.
These drugs are in everything from allergy medicines to muscle relaxants to painkillers. They are in many over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and they are often prescribed for a variety of common health complaints.
7 Common Types of Medication that are Anticholinergic
Here are seven common types of anticholinergic medication that older adults should avoid, or use with caution: [Read more…]