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Anticholinergics have been shown to cause elderly people to slow down in their daily physical activities.
Two reports from Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggest that anticholinergic drugs, commonly used to treat acid reflux, Parkinson’s disease and urinary incontinence, may make older people lose their thinking skills quicker than those who do not take the medicines.
Anticholinergic drugs inhibit acetylcholine, a chemical that enhances communication between nerve cells in the brain, from binding to its receptors in nerve cells.
Older adults given anticholinergics had higher odds of walking more slowly and requiring help in other daily activities. The results were valid even in older adults with normal memory and thinking abilities.
Among older adults taking a moderately anticholinergic medication, or two or more mildly anticholinergic medications, the function appeared similar to that of someone three to four years older.
Common anticholinergic medicines include nifedipine (antihypertensive), ranitidine (reduces stomach acid) and tolterodine (medication for incontinence).
Cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs used to treat dementia by increasing levels of acetylcholine. These include donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine and tacrine.