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Drugs and Dementia


Acetylcholine is responsible for transmitting messages in the nervous system. When low in this substance, you can become forgetful and experience symptoms that resemble dementia.

Anticholinergic Drugs

Evidence from a study published in March 2015 linked an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to long-term use of certain drugs that block the action of acetylcholine. These drugs are known as anticholinergic and can cause the following side-effects:.

  • mental confusion
  • brain fog
  • incoherent speech
  • delirium
  • blurred vision
  • memory problems
  • hallucinations
  • dry mouth
  • light-headedness
  • difficulty starting and continuing to urinate
  • loss of bladder control
  • difficulty reasoning
  • drowsiness
  • constipation

What to Avoid

Any drug that starts with “anti,” such as antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antispasmodic, or antihypertensive, can affect your acetylcholine level. Ditropan for controlling overactive bladder can affect levels as well. Following are common antihistamines:

  • Excedrin PM
  • Tylenol PM
  • Nytol
  • Sominex
  • Unisom
  • Benedryl
  • Dramamine

Why Age Matters

Neurotransmitters become naturally imbalanced as people age, increasing the brain’s sensitivity to drugs that have activity in the central nervous system. There is also a decrease in kidney and liver function. This affects the body’s ability to clear drugs, so they can accumulate in the body.

In addition, older patients are often prescribed multiple drugs. Interactions between them can increase side-effects, including cognitive impairment.

Nutritional Support

To raise acetylcholine levels, add the following choline-rich foods to your diet:

  • Pastured Eggs. Just one egg yolk contains about 115 mg of choline.
  • Beef Liver. 5oz of raw liver contains 423 mg of choline.
  • Grass-Fed Raw Dairy. 8oz of fresh milk, yogurt, and kefir contain about 40 mg of choline
  • Cruciferous Veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.

For more ideas on how to reduce symptoms of dementia, click here.

Please note: Always discuss any medication concerns with your doctor

Source: Shelly L. Gray et al, “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia.” JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7663

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