Common medications affect memory in elderly

Common prescription medications used to treat a diverse range of conditions from anxiety to allergies could have a negative impact on memory function in the elderly.

Studies have previously revealed that there could be a link between the use of medicines and memory in the elderly with 90% of people aged 65 and older being prescribed at least one drug and 18%  reporting problems with memory and cognitive ability.

New research carried out by a team of scientists led by Dr Cara Tannenbaum of the University of Montreal in Canada set out to establish which prescription medicines negatively impact certain brain functions, including memory, attention and concentration in elderly people. The scientists studied data from experiments and clinical trials involving a range of drugs including benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and insomnia, antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants. The results showed that taking benzodiazepines consistently led to impaired memory and concentration and that antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants are associated with deficits in attention and information processing.

These findings support the recommendation issued in the by the American Geriatrics Society in 2012 that all sleeping pills, first-generation antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants should be avoided wherever possible by older people.

A drug that blocks the action of histamine in the body; these are used to treat conditions such as hay fever. Full medical glossary
A group of drugs given for short periods for insomnia or to ease the symptoms of anxiety or stress. Full medical glossary
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A tube placed inside a tubular structure in the body, to keep it patent, that is, open. Full medical glossary