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Older adults may be increasing their dementia risk with common medications

Certain commonly-prescribed medications have been linked with an increased risk of dementia among older adults, new research has found.

A study, published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, discovered a strong association between a high risk of dementia and a type of medication known as "anticholinergic" drugs, CNN reported. This describes any drug that blocks the chemical acetylcholine from its function in the nervous system — and anticholinergic drugs can be used to treat a variety of conditions, from dizziness and insomnia to epilepsy and mental disorders.

In particular, the study found that certain types of anticholinergics — including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antiepileptics — were associated with a particularly high risk of dementia when taken by adults over the age of 55 for long periods of time. In some cases, the risk increased by as much as 50 percent when patients were exposed to a daily dose of anticholinergic drugs for three years or more.

While the association has been noticed before, it's still far from confirmed that these drugs actually cause the increased dementia risk, rather than just being linked with it. "No firm conclusions can be drawn about whether these drugs cause dementia," said Carol Coupland, the study's lead author and a professor at the University of Nottingham.

More research will be required before determining whether or not there is a causal link between anticholinergics and dementia — so patients shouldn't stop taking "critical and important" medications, said Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at Ohio State University. Instead, "have a conversation with your doctor" about the risks involved with your medications, he recommended.

Read more at CNN.