4 Meds Widely Used by Seniors Can Spike Risk of Dementia

There are a growing number of people involved in pharmaceuticals who are coming to believe that certain medications can put different individuals into a higher risk category for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Seniors and others who may assist in their caregiving need to be aware of this risk. There have been four medications that appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline among seniors. These are:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Statins
  • Anticholinergics
  • Parkinson’s medications


Benzodiazepines, commonly referred to as ‘benzos’, are a class of psychoactive drugs used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. Often prescribed as medications to treat anxiety, panic disorder, and insomnia, they act on the brain by increasing the action of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps reduce nerve activity in the brain. Benzodiazepines have also been found useful in treating other conditions such as seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepines work by attaching to GABA receptors on brain cells, which increases their calming effect. This results in an increase in GABA activity, which helps reduce stress hormones and regulate moods. Benzodiazepines are generally considered safe and effective when taken as directed; however, they can be habit-forming when taken for longer periods or at higher doses than prescribed.

Common benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam) and Librium (chlordiazepoxide). These medications are typically taken orally but can also be injected or inhaled via suppositories or patches. They come in different forms such as tablets, capsules, liquids, and injectables. Some benzodiazepines may also be available by injection directly into muscle tissue or veins for more rapid effects.

The possible side effects of benzodiazepines vary depending on the type of medication being used and the individual taking it; however, some common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and impaired coordination. Other potential side effects may include blurred vision, nausea, and weakness; these usually subside after a few days of use but should still be monitored closely by doctors or pharmacists before use is continued. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence on benzos. However, this is often reversible with appropriate medical treatment if caught early enough.

In addition to the other potential dangers of benzodiazepines discussed in this article, long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Benjamin Gibson, PharmD, told Best Life. This is because benzodiazepines have anterograde amnesic properties which disturb short-term and long-term memory function, according to an article published by The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 

In general, benzodiazepines are most useful when used on a short-term basis for acute episodes rather than chronic conditions due to their potential for tolerance and dependence with long-term use. When prescribed as needed for anxiety or insomnia relief it is important to take them exactly as your doctor instructs in order to prevent any unwanted side effects from occurring or addiction from forming with prolonged use. It is also important to remember that not everyone will respond the same way to these medications so it may take some trial and error before finding one that works best for a particular individual.


Statins are a type of medication used to lower cholesterol levels in the body. They work by blocking an enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol. Statins are usually prescribed to people with high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, or a history of stroke. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can block blood flow and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

There are several types of statins available and they vary in how well they reduce cholesterol. Some statins have been shown to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is the “bad” type of cholesterol that contributes to plaque build-up, as well as other health risks associated with high cholesterol levels. Other statins aim to raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein), which is the “good” type of cholesterol that helps protect against heart attack and stroke.

It’s important for individuals taking statins to understand what their target LDL and HDL levels should be because if these levels are not maintained, it could put them at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease and other related health issues. Additionally, certain lifestyle changes may help optimize the effects of statin therapy like eating healthy foods low in saturated fats and exercising regularly.

For those who are unable to reach their target numbers through diet and exercise alone, their doctor may recommend adding additional medications like fish oil or niacin supplements to their daily regimen. In some cases, a form of a drug called bile acid sequestrants or ezetimibe might also be prescribed along with statins to further reduce LDL levels. However, it is important for individuals taking multiple medications to consult with their healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement or drug regimen in order to avoid any potential adverse side effects or interactions between drugs and supplements.

In addition to helping manage high cholesterol levels, research has linked statin use with a reduction in inflammation throughout the body—a contributing factor for many chronic illnesses including diabetes and heart disease – as well as lower rates of stroke and overall mortality rate when taken consistently over time. While there are still studies being conducted on this topic, current evidence suggests that long-term use may lead to more benefits than risks for people who already have established cardiovascular issues or whose family history puts them at higher risk for developing these problems down the line.

While statins have been proven effective for managing high cholesterol levels and related health issues in some patients, it’s important for anyone considering taking them regularly – or anyone currently using them—to understand both the risks and benefits associated with this drug class before making any decisions about its use over time. Consulting your healthcare provider will help provide all the necessary information so you can make an educated decision about the use of statins.

Some research has found a connection between statins and an increased risk of dementia among some individuals. With that noted, JoAnn Manson, MD tells Harvard Health that this connection is not without controversy. In other words, it is open to debate at this time.

“There’s still not a clear conclusion whether they help to prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, have neutral effects, or increase risk,” Manson said. However, “If your health care provider is recommending statins and saying that you are a candidate, the benefits of taking it are very, very likely to outweigh any risks,” explained Manson.


Anticholinergics are a class of medications that work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that acts on nerves and muscles in the body. These drugs are used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including allergies, asthma, bladder problems, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and even some mental health issues. They can also be used as a preventative measure in some cases.

The most common anticholinergic drugs are Atropine and Scopolamine, which are often used to treat motion sickness. However, there are many other types available on the market such as Ipratropium bromide (Atrovent) for asthma and Tiotropium bromide (Spiriva) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other commonly prescribed anticholinergics include Oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan), Tolterodine tartrate (Detrol), Solifenacin succinate (Vesicare), Fesoterodine fumarate (Toviaz), Darifenacin hydrobromide (Enablex) and Trospium chloride (Sanctura).

These medications work by blocking acetylcholine receptors in the brain and various organs throughout the body. This results in decreased muscle contractions and spasms which can lead to a reduction in symptoms associated with certain medical conditions. Anticholinergics may also reduce stomach acid production to help reduce heartburn or GERD-related symptoms. In addition to this, they can act as an anti-histamine reducing allergic reaction or combat nausea and vomiting related to motion sickness.

The side effects associated with these medications vary depending on the type taken but may include dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, constipation, or urination problems. Additionally, overuse of anticholinergic drugs has been linked with cognitive impairments such as memory loss or confusion in elderly patients so caution should be exercised when taking them if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

Kevin Hwang, MD, tells GoodRx that research has discovered a potential link between anticholinergic drugs and dementia. With that said, Hwang points out that “Anticholinergics block the effect of acetylcholine, a chemical in your brain that helps send messages between cells. Blocking acetylcholine can cause temporary drowsiness, confusion, and memory loss.”

According to Drugs.com, the most common anticholinergic drug classes used by the elderly are tricyclic antidepressants, first-generation antihistamines, and overactive bladder antimuscarinics.

In summary, anticholinergics are powerful medications that can be quite beneficial when it comes to treating medical conditions caused by overactive nerves or muscles. They come with their own set of side effects so it is important for patients to speak with their doctor about possible risks before starting any treatment. As long as these drugs are taken as directed then they provide an effective way for people to manage their health condition without causing any further harm.

Parkinson’s Medications

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and coordination. It is caused when neurons in the brain die or become impaired, leading to a lack of dopamine in the brain. The decrease in dopamine results in symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

Medication is one of the main treatments used for Parkinson’s disease. Most medications prescribed for Parkinson’s act to replace or supplement the supply of dopamine, allowing patients to have better control over their movements. Some medications also help to reduce symptoms like tremors and stiffness by affecting other chemicals in the brain called acetylcholine and serotonin.

One type of medication often prescribed for Parkinson’s is levodopa (L-dopa). This drug is converted into dopamine by neurons in the brain, helping to improve the patient’s motion control and reduce some of their other symptoms. Levodopa is usually taken either as a pill or nasal spray depending on how it is prescribed by a physician. Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches but most people tolerate this medication well over long-term use.

Other types of drugs commonly prescribed for Parkinson’s include MAO-B inhibitors (selegiline), which block an enzyme responsible for breaking down dopamine, thereby increasing its levels in the brain; anticholinergics (benztropine), which help reduce tremors; and amantadine, which acts on various receptors in the brain to help reduce stiffness and improve walking speed. All of these medications can have serious side effects if not taken properly so it is important that you discuss any questions about them with your doctor before taking them.

In conclusion, the Parkinson’s Foundation remains focused on other types of activities and treatments beyond medications that are desired to control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These include lifestyle changes.