Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It may be commonly viewed as memory loss, but along with its most common type, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia can progress with devastating results.

Alzheimer’s makes up between 60 percent to 80 percent of all known cases of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and the loss of other critical cognitive abilities, such as judgement, decision making, thinking and behavior.

In advanced stages, people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s can lose the ability to respond to their surroundings and control over their basic living functions, even breathing.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s affects millions of Americans and is actually the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated that people with Alzheimer’s live an average of just eight years after symptoms are first discovered.

While there’s no known cure, new research suggests a link between dementia and certain common prescription drugs, known as “anticholinergics.” Anticholinergic drugs block bodily chemicals that affect muscle activity in the digestive and urinary tracts, lungs and other areas of the body. They also affect memory and learning.

Many medications have at least some anticholinergic aspects, and it’s estimated that up to half of all older adults in the United States are currently taking one or more of these medications. Common examples include:

  • amitriptyline, paroxetine, and bupropion — Most commonly taken for depression.
  • oxybutynin and tolterodine — Taken for an overactive bladder.
  • diphenhydramine — A common antihistamine, contained in medicines like Benadryl.

A scientific study published in March 2015, titled “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia,” found that 54 percent of 3,434 men and women over the age of 65, who were studied over a seven-year period, were more likely to develop dementia if they took anticholinergic drugs than those who didn’t. The most common anticholinergics used by the study’s participants were antidepressants, antihistamines, and bladder medicines.

More recently, research published in The BMJ (or The British Medical Journal), titled “Anticholinergic Drugs and Risk of Dementia: Case-Control Study,” found that seniors who took any medications with anticholinergic activity were 11 percent more likely to be eventually diagnosed with dementia. Of those who took medicines with the most anticholinergic effects, the risk of dementia was 30 percent higher.

We know how devastating a diagnosis that will significantly impact a loved one is. While there is no cure for illnesses such as these, there are steps you can take early on to make sure your family is protected. Do not wait to contact us to schedule an appointment with Attorney Alan Hougum.