Anticholinergic drugs are in widespread use for several conditions from allergies to hypertension, however, there is growing evidence that point towards their association with increased risk of cognitive impairment.
A research group from the University of California, San Diego found that cognitively normal people who were found to be taking at least 1 anticholinergic drug were had a 47% increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. The study involved 688 adults who were followed for up to 10 years with an average age of 74.
Those who were genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer's were 2.5 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment compared to those who were not on anticholinergic drugs or at genetic risk. Furthermore, those who had Alzheimer's biomarkers present in their cerebrospinal fluid at the start of the study were 5 times more likely to show signs of mild cognitive impairment.
Why it matters: The study findings suggest a link between anticholinergic drugs and mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to dementia. Reducing usage before onset of any cognitive symptoms may be critical in delaying age-related impacts on cognition, particularly those who are predisposed to neurodegenerative disorders. It is important for those who take this class of drugs to regularly consult with their doctors about medication use and dosages.