If you find yourself forgetting more than usual, or you sometimes feel like your mind is not as sharp as it once was, you might want to take a look inside your medicine cabinet.
Older people in particular are being advised to avoid some common over-the-counter medications, as evidence piles up of their connection to thinking problems and memory loss.
A study by the Indiana University School of Medicine, published in JAMA Neurology, used brain scans to explore the impact of some common medications on brain metabolism and atrophy in 451 participants. Among this group, 60 people were taking one or more medications that have medium or high anticholinergic activity.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers used PETs to measure brain metabolism, MRIs to scan brain structure, and a series of cognitive and memory tests.
They found that those patients who were taking the anticholinergic drugs registered worse performances on the tests than older patients who did not take this type of drug. Some of the areas where performance declines were noted included planning, verbal reasoning, short-term memory and problem solving.
Perhaps even more alarmingly, the MRIs showed that those who took the drugs had smaller brain volume and bigger ventricles.
In addition, they had lower levels of glucose metabolism in their brains in general, and in the hippocampus in particular, which is the area of the brain responsible for memory, and is commonly affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.