The Popular Allergy Medication That Could Increase Your Risk Of Dementia

High blood pressure, hearing loss, smoking cigarettes, overconsumption of alcohol as well as certain health conditions can all heighten our risk for developing dementia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dementia occurs when a person's memory recall or cognitive abilities have become impaired. By 2060, it is estimated that approximately 14 million adults will be living with dementia (via CDC).

Some research suggests that the use of certain medications may also make one more susceptible to dementia, specifically anticholinergic drugs. These medications function by blocking a specific neurotransmitter responsible for reflexive muscle movements and other automatic functions throughout various systems in the body (via Medical News Today). For this reason, anticholinergics have been prescribed to treat various health conditions, a few of which include bladder issues, Parkinson's disease symptoms, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, and allergies.

Also an anticholinergic drug, Benadryl is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine commonly used to relieve allergy symptoms. In the 2015 longitudinal study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers outlined how anticholinergics can also impact working memory, attention, and other cognitive abilities.

Long-term use of certain antihistamines may raise one's risk for dementia

The study involved more than 3,400 older adults who were not diagnosed with dementia before the study began. Researchers analyzed participant medication usage during the decade before the study by referencing pharmacy data. Throughout an approximately 7-year follow-up period, a little over 23% of participants developed dementia. Additionally, the research showed that over 78% of participants had a record of at least one anticholinergic drug prescription in the decade preceding the study; the most common of which were antidepressants, bladder medications, and antihistamines. Anticholinergic medication use was more commonly seen amongst women, those with greater depressive symptoms, and individuals with comorbidities compared to people who did not useĀ anticholinergics.

The study showed that those who took anticholinergic drugs stood at an increased risk for all-cause dementia, particularly individuals who took these medications for three years or longer. While cognitive impairment has been a noted side effect of anticholinergic drug usage, it is said to resolve itself once a patient stops taking the medication. However, some experts believe that anticholinergics present a greater risk for such cognitive impairment persisting even after a patient ceases taking the drug. The researchers emphasized the importance of medical professionals recognizing this potential connection and looking into other medications for older adults if appropriate.