New research suggests that anticolinergic drugs reduce the size of brain and cause congitive impairment
A new research suggests that people should avoid taking over-the-counter drugs such as common cold and allergy pills because they are linked to cognitive impairment and increased risk of dementia.
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In the first study of its nature, researchers looked at the physical changes taking place in people using anticholinergic drugs. When researchers applied brain scanning technologies, they were stunned to find that the drug has caused slow metabolism and reduced the size of the brains.
“These findings provide us with a much better understanding of how this class of drugs may act upon the brain in ways that might raise the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia,” said Shannon Risacher, professor of radiology and imaging sciences from Indiana University.
“Given all the research evidence, physicians might want to consider alternatives to anticolinergic medications if available when working with their older patients.”
Anticolinergic drugs are sold over the counter without any prescription and they are used for blocking the action of neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The drugs provide relief from asthma, hypertension and heart disease.
Many previous studies have also linked anticolinergic with cognitive problems with older patients but there was not strong evidence to support the theory – until now.
To identify physical and psychological changes reported with the drug, researchers recruited 451 participants with an average age of 73 and 60 of the them took at least one anticolinergic medication. Then, researchers evaluated the changes on their brain with the help of cognitive tests like postiron emission tests (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for brain structure.
Researchers found that the drug had side effects on the brain and those who were taking anticolinergic drugs performed worse in cognitive tests compared to older adults not taking the drug. The drug increased the risk of dementia and shrunk the size of the brain.
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Dr. Risacher says. “These findings might give us clues to the biological basis for the cognitive problems associated with anticholinergic drugs, but additional studies are needed if we are to truly understand the mechanisms involved.”