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How to Prevent Dementia

Certain drugs, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety agents, can increase the possibility of developing dementia.

Q. I am interested in information about preventing dementia.

What drugs should someone avoid to prevent memory loss? Are there any drugs that might help? Please answer in the newspaper so my wife won’t know I am worried.

A. There are a surprising number of medications that appear to cause confusion and forgetfulness and may even increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Drugs That May Contribute to Confusion

Sleeping pills and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs are worrisome in this regard. Anticholinergic medications such as those prescribed for overactive bladder or used over the counter to treat allergy symptoms or insomnia can affect cognitive function (JAMA Internal Medicine, March, 2015).

Anyone who is interested in learning more about this problem may want to read our Guide to Drugs and Older People, which has a list of medicines that can cause trouble.

A Promising Development

Exciting new research suggests that an epilepsy drug, levetiracetam, may offer hope for people with the first signs of memory loss (NeuroImage: Clinical, online, Feb. 21, 2015).  We will be watching for further research on this medication to see if the early promise holds up.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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