Baby boomers have taken pains to treat simultaneous and multiple chronic illnesses with prescribed anticholinergic medications. But scientists have found that anticholinergic drugs caused adverse effects that contributed to increased risk of cognitive impairment and increased rate of emergency and hospital admissions of the aging patients.
Anticholinergics are drugs that inhibits the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that activates muscle function. Other parts of brain affected by acetylcholine work on arousal, attention, memory and motivation.
It is not unusual that these aging patients are taking at least five to nine medications daily whether prescribed or bought over the counter to treat chronic conditions such as depression, anxiety, pain, allergy, incontinence or sleep problems.
The experts at Indiana University Center for Aging Research studied data from Regenstrief Medical Record System (RMRS) of 3,344 community-dwelling older adults, aged 65 yrs and older. It is important to note that these adults underwent dementia screening prior to the study with a result of which 3127 were determined to have no cognitive impairment, and 217 were determined to have cognitive impairment.
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The scientists used the Anti-Cholinergic Burden (ACB) scale
which is developed by Malaz Boustani, the Chief Innovation and Implementation Officer of IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, to identify the anticholinergics taken by patients and the rate of healthcare utilization, such as hospital and emergency visits in the past 12 months. The result showed that 10 percent were cognitively impaired.
Noll Campbell, PharmD, who led the new research explained, "Anticholinergics, the medications that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have previously been implicated as a potential cause of cognitive impairment, by us and by other researchers."
"This is the first study to calculate cumulative anticholinergic burden and determine that as burden increases, so does healthcare utilization in the US in both outpatient and inpatient," he added.
IU Center reported in 2013 that it only takes as long as 60 days of anticholinergics to cause memory problems and other indicators of mild cognitive impairment.
"As baby boomers age and the number of older adults increases, it is especially important to recognize the negative impact of anticholinergic medications on the aging brain and healthcare delivery cost," said Dr. Malaz Boustani.
The researchers published their study in peer-reviewed journal Pharmacotherapy
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