Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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March 9, 2014

Common medications can affect cognitive function

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “If you were taking one of the drugs we know is definitely an anticholinergic for 60 days, you doubled the odds of developing mild cognitive impairment compared with a patient taking none,” researchers said.

The aim of studies like these is to evaluate the magnitude of the effects of different drugs, to determine whether there are safe thresholds for their use and to learn whether the effect is transient and reversible. Studies from large clinics that treat people with memory disorders have shown that up to 25 percent of the patients who seek help have reversible disorders, including those caused by taking a combination of medications.  

Even so, why do physicians prescribe medications that alter chemical messengers in the brain to elderly people, who may be using them regularly for many years? Not only are doctors often unaware of all the medicines their patients are taking, but the list of drugs is a long one.

So what’s a patient to do? If you or an elderly relative take one or more drugs on a regular basis, ask your primary care physician to evaluate the cumulative anticholinergic burden of all them (as well as other potential interactions and side effects).

The patient is critical in triggering that kind of discussion. It may not be automatic, but if in fact the patient asks for it, it’s much more likely to be done. Remember to tell your physician about drugs prescribed by other specialists, as well as nonprescription or alternative medicines you take. This review should be done once a year. Do not stop medications on your own without medical supervision.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of the Lockport-based Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides and coordinates senior, mental health, in-home care and caregiver support services, and enrichment activities, for adults. For more information, visit www.daleassociation.com.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of the Lockport-based Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides and coordinates senior, mental health, in-home care and caregiver support services, and enrichment activities, for adults. For more information, visit www.daleassociation.com.

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