Talk to Your Doctor About Alternatives to Dementia-Linked Prescription Drugs

Losing control of your mental faculties is a frightening thought, but it’s a possibility that millions of elder Americans are facing. According to the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention, it is estimated that 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 10 men, who live past the age of 55 will develop dementia in their lifetime.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, making up nearly 80 percent of all known cases (currently affecting 5.7 million Americans) and it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes dementia, and there is no known cure. But research shows that a number of dietary and lifestyle choices can modulate the development and progression of dementia, which is essentially a brain disease. For example, health experts strongly recommend quitting smoking, if an issue, and to exercise regularly, stick to a healthy diet, and stay mentally engaged in ways that improve quality of life.

There is a new consideration, however.

While there’s still much research to be done, a number of scientific studies in recent years have shown a measurable link between dementia and certain types of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Do not wait to talk with your doctor about these groundbreaking findings, and possible drug alternatives. Especially if you are concerned about yourself and your loved ones and your long-term care needs, this is something to seriously consider.

In nearly every study, with some analyzing tens of thousands of patient-participants for as long as seven years, researchers identified elevated dementia risks with the use of “anticholinergics” and “benzodiazepines.” Anticholinergics are a category of drugs frequently used to treat allergies, colds, depression, high blood pressure and bladder control problems. Benzodiazepines are included in common medications that treat anxiety and insomnia.

Both work by blocking a neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine, from sending signals from the brain to muscles throughout the body. Acetylcholine is also involved in memory and learning, and research shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have lower than normal levels of acetylcholine.

If you are taking any affected medicines, you may want to talk to your doctor about the potential risks while weighing the purported health benefits. Keep in mind that there are many drug alternatives to dementia linked medications. At the very least, exploring possible alternatives will further educate you on the reasons the initial medication was prescribed. Remember, always consult your physician first before quitting any doctor prescribed medications.

We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you to ask us your questions on this or any elder law related challenges you or your loved ones may be facing.

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