These Often Prescribed Drugs as a Risk Factor? – Naturopathy & naturopathic specialist portal

Link Between Anticholinergics and Alzheimer’s?

So-called anticholinergics, a class of drugs that are used for a variety of diseases, appear to be associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, which also brings an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in older people.

In a recent study involving the University of California, San Diego, the researchers found that the use of certain drugs appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The results were published in the English-language journal “neurology“Published.

What are anticholinergics?

Anticholinergics are a class of drugs that are used for a variety of conditions, including allergies and Colds up to high blood pressure and Herninkontinenz. Some of these drugs require a prescription, while others are available over the counter. Anticholinergics work by preventing acetylcholine (a type of neurotransmitter or chemical messenger) from attaching to receptors on certain nerve cells. The effect is to inhibit parasympathetic nerve impulses that are involved in a large number of involuntary muscle movements, explain the researchers.

688 people took part in the study

For the current study, 688 adults were examined. Half of the participants were women, the other half were men. The participants had an average age of 74 years and at the beginning of the study had neither cognitive nor memory problems. Participants had to indicate whether they were taking anticholinergics, and it turned out that a third were using such drugs. Comprehensive cognitive tests were then carried out annually for a period of ten years.

Ingestion increased risk of cognitive impairment

If cognitively healthy participants took at least one anticholinergic drug at the start of the study, this increased the likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment during a ten-year period of medical monitoring by 47 percent. Such impairment is often a preliminary stage of dementia.

Effects of taking anticholinergics

It was also examined whether the participants were typical biomarkers for Alzheimer exhibited. It turned out that participants who already had such biomarkers were four times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment when they took anticholinergics than those who did not take the medication without the corresponding biomarkers.

In addition, people who took anticholinergics and who were genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s had a 2.5 times higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairment than people who did not take the medication without genetic risk factors.

Anticholinergics were taken in large amounts

Although the elderly metabolize anticholinergic drugs differently than younger people, the drugs were often taken in amounts much higher than the lowest effective recommended dose for the elderly. 57 percent of the participants took twice the recommended dose and 18 percent even took at least four times the amount, the researchers report.

Dosages need to be reduced

This suggests a potential area for improvement, as reducing doses of anticholinergic drugs may delay cognitive decline, the research team explains. Older people who take anticholinergic medication should regularly discuss the use of medication and the dosages with their doctor.

More research is needed

The effects of these drugs on the brain and cognitive abilities should be further studied to see if they can accelerate age-related cognitive changes or even lead directly to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers emphasize. More research is being done to see if reducing or stopping these drugs actually leads to a reduction in progressive cognitive impairment. (as)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


  • Alexandra J. Weigand, Mark W. Bondi, Kelsey R. Thomas, Noll L. Campbell, Douglas R. Galasko et al.: Association of anticholinergic medication and AD biomarkers with incidence of MCI among cognitively normal older adults, in Neurologie (veröffentlicht 02.09.2020), neurology
  • University of California – San Diego: Common class of drugs linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (veröffentl,

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.


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