Common Muscle Relaxing Drugs Linked To 50% Higher Dementia Risk

To date, one in three older adults in the U.S. dies with dementia. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that the federal government would spend at least $290 bill in 2019 for the fight against the disease. 

Over the coming years, health experts expect to see more patients, with the current rate of one individual developing dementia every 65 seconds in the country, according to the organization. 

Challenges remain for the scientific community to determine what really causes the condition. But a new study, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, offers information about the factors that may contribute to the development of dementia in older adults. 

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in England found that the use of anticholinergic medication daily could increase the risk of having dementia by 50 percent. The risk was found significantly high in people aged 55 and older who took the muscle relaxing drugs for three years or more.

The drugs work by preventing the flow of acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages in the nervous system. Doctors commonly prescribe them to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bladder conditions, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

The use of the medicines has long been linked to short-term side effects, such as confusion and memory loss. But the latest study highlights its long term effects that could lead to dementia.

For the study, the researchers analyzed medical records of 58,769 patients diagnosed with dementia and 225,574 patients without the disease, all aged 55 and over. The team collected data from 2004 to 2016.

Results show that anticholinergic drugs, particularly those made for depression, Parkinson's disease, bladder and epilepsy, contributed to higher chances of dementia development. However, other anticholinergic drug, including antihistamines and gastrointestinal medications, showed no effect. 

"This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” Tom Dening, head of the Center for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said in a statement. “If patients have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving."

senior Health experts expect to see more people with dementia over the coming years, with the current rate of one individual developing the condition every 65 seconds in the U.S. Pixabay