Any time you take a medication, weighing the risks and benefits of the drug is a must. And now we must ask ourselves, “Is this one of the drugs linked to dementia and memory loss?”
Emerging research is finding disturbing connections between anticholinergic drugs and negative brain effects. This drug class includes popular medications used for allergies, seasickness and sleep, including diphenhydramine, dimenhydrinate and others.
And yes, you’d think some of the most popular allergy and insomnia drugs on the market would be safe, but one study outlines some frightening health risks. The JAMA Neurology study is unique because Indiana University School of Medicine researchers actually used brain imaging to detect how anticholinergic drugs impact the brain. Using MRI and PET scan imaging, researchers showed how people taking anticholinergic drugs experienced lower brain metabolism and higher brain atrophy.
This isn’t the first time researchers found a connection between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive decline. In 2015, University of Washington scientists also found the chronic use of certain anticholinergic sleep aids and hay fever meds in the increased a person’s risk of dementia. The study only found the association for people taking these drugs for 3 or more years. (More research is needed to find out if continuous or intermittent use over that time frame leads to the increased risk of dementia.)
9 Drugs That Cause Memory Loss
The thought of memory loss as a result of mediations that are supposed to be aiding your healing is a scary one. Below is a list of drugs with anticholinergic effects to watch out for when trying to preserve brain health:
1. Incontinence Drugs
Generic drug names: darifenacin, oxybutynin, tolterodine, flavoxate
Pelvic floor muscle exercises such as kegels, help strengthen the muscles around the urethra, and are an easy way to help combat incontinence naturally. When you repeatedly clench and unclench your pelvic floor muscles, you help to improve the strength, coordination and endurance of the muscles.
Bladder training is another natural, cost-free way to attempt to manage incontinence. The goal of bladder training is to regain control of your bathroom habits. While you may feel the urge to run to the bathroom, try to wait ten extra minutes. Once you get comfortable with this milestone, add another ten minutes. Continue this practice until you’ve reached an appropriate time between bathroom visits. Ask your healthcare provider to help you set clear goals through this process and keep a journal to help both you and your doctor track progress. Keep in mind that both bladder training and pelvic floor exercises take time to see improvements.
Research also suggests foods high in vitamin C and foods containing beta-cryptoxanthin may help promote urinary system health. These foods include kiwi, guava, papaya, pineapple, mango, pumpkin, squash, carrots, sweet peppers, green peppers, broccoli, kale, parsley and more.
2. Muscle Relaxants
Generic drug names: cyclobenzaprine, dicyclomine, orphenadrine
A 2011 study researched the effects of massage therapy on muscle pain and relaxation. Researchers found that massage therapy improved bone and muscle pain management in patients, demonstrating the muscle-relaxing effects of massage.
Magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker to regulate muscle contractions and help muscles relax. If you’re deficient in magnesium, your muscles may contract too much, causing cramps or spasms.
3. Narcotic Painkillers
Generic drug names: meperidine
Natural painkillers exist in a number of different forms. Depending on the cause and type of pain you’re experiencing, various remedies may be appropriate. Potential natural pain-killing options include:
Cryotherapy (for muscle pain)
Peppermint or lavender essential oils (for headaches and muscle pain)