Common medication associated with cognitive decline in
Study suggests use of certain medications in elderly
populations may be associated with cognitive decline
New Haven, Conn. - January 26, 2009 - A study published in
Journal of the
American Geriatrics Society suggested that the use of certain medications in
elderly populations may be associated with cognitive decline. The study examined
the effects of exposure to anticholinergic medications, a type of drug used to
treat a variety of disorders that include respiratory and gastrointestinal
problems, on over 500 relatively healthy men aged 65 years or older with high
Older people often take several drugs to treat multiple health conditions. As
some of these drugs also have properties that affect neurotransmitters in the
brain that are important to overall brain function, the researchers examined the
total effects of all medications taken by the patients, both prescription and
over-the-counter, that were believed to affect the function of a particular
The findings show that chronic use of medications with anticholinergic
properties may have detrimental effects on memory and the ability to perform
daily living tasks, such as shopping and managing finances. Participants showed
deficits in both memory and daily function when they took these medications over
the course of a year. The degree of memory difficulty and impairment in daily
living tasks also increased proportionally to the total amount of drug exposure,
based on a rating scale the authors developed to assess anticholinergicity of
According to study co-author Dr. Ling Han of the Yale University Department
of Internal Medicine, elderly patients may be more vulnerable to these types of
medications due to neurological and pharmacokinetical changes related to
"This study extends our previous findings on acute cognitive impairment
following recent anticholinergic exposure in older medical inpatients," says
Han. "Prescribing for older adults who take multiple prescription and
over-the-counter medications requires careful attention to minimize the risk of
potential harms of the drugs while maximizing their health benefits."
Ling Han, M.D., Ph.D., MSc, is a senior epidemiologist and biostatistician at
the Program on Aging, Internal Medicine, at Yale University and can be reached
for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is a comprehensive and
reliable source of monthly research and information about common diseases and
disorders of older adults. For more information, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com/jgs.
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