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Doctors often prescribe anticholinergic drugs for a variety of ills. But a new study suggests they may increase the risk of dementia in older patients. These medicines include everything from Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to certain antipsychotics and Parkinson’s meds. They’re used to treat a wide range of other conditions, including depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, overactive bladder, allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders. Anticholinergic drugs help contract and relax muscles, and work by blocking acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages in the nervous system. But the new British study found that people aged 55 and older who took strong anticholinergic medications daily for three years or more had a 50% increased risk of dementia.
An almost 50% increase in risk!
For their study, lead researcher Prof. Carol Coupland and team analyzed the medical records of 58,769 people with dementia and 225,574 people without dementia. They were all 55 years old or above at baseline.