A new study has shed light on dementia demonstrating that higher dementia risk is linked to more use of common drugs. The study conducted at University of Washington suggested that increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease is linked to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time.

Shelly Gray, PharmD, MS, the first author of the report, said that older adults should be aware that many medications including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids-have strong anticholinergic effects and they should tell their health care providers about all their over-the-counter use.

Gray said that no one should stop taking any therapy without consulting their health care provider and health care providers should regularly review their older patients drug regimens including over-the-counter medications to look for chances to use fewer anticholinergic medications at lower doses.

Gray added that if providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient and they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it is working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective.

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