A new study published in the British Medical Journal has found that several common medications, such as anticholinergic drugs, heighten the risk of dementia by an alarming 30%.
Researchers collected data from the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Database where they identified 40,770 patients, aged 65 to 99, who were diagnosed with dementia between April 2006 and July 2015.
To assess whether anticholinergic drugs are associated with an increased risk of dementia, researchers compared patients who were prescribed specific classes of anticholinergic drugs (examples includes Parkinson’s medications and antipsychotics) 4 to 20 years before being diagnosed with dementia to nearly 300,000 people who didn’t have the disease.
The results indicated that patients who took anticholinergics used to treat depression, Parkinson’s and a bladder disorder for more than a year had around a 30% increased risk of developing dementia later on in life. However, those taking other classes of anticholinergics for the treatment of asthma and gastrointestinal issues did not have a heightened risk of developing dementia.
“For the urological and antidepressants, there’s quite a clear association between their long-term use and dementia incidence” lead study author George Savva, PhD, University of East Anglia School of Health Sciences, told CNN. “For anti-Parkinson’s medications, the risk is there, but there’s far fewer of those prescriptions in the database, so there’s a lot less certainty.”