Did you know that the very drugs your doctor may be prescribing to lower your cholesterol, improve your motor control and regulate your blood pressure could actually be robbing you of your memory?
As you age, your brain starts to shrink, and while there are certain steps you can take to maintain a younger brain, such as completing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, coloring and engaging in regular exercise, a little brain aging is inevitable.
But you could be undoing all your hard work simply by taking your doctor’s advice as gospel, and taking one of these 10 brain-shrinking drugs.
A lower cholesterol is a healthier cholesterol, right?
Not so fast.
In the modern age, many health professionals are waging a false war on
What’s so scary, is that statins could be posing a serious risk to your memory. In fact, studies in the Journal of Pharmacotherapy found that statins are potentially responsible for short-term memory loss.1-3
According to Beatrice Golomb, MD,4
Ergo, your doctor may not even know the potential dangers that statins pose to your memory.
The degenerative effect that statins have on the brain can likely be put down to the fact that they interact negatively with the energy center of your cells, known as the mitochondria. This causes signals to misfire, meaning that important messages to and from the brain don’t get translated as they should.
2. Antiepileptic Drugs
Antiepileptic drugs (also known as anticonvulsants) act by interrupting the flow of messages within your central nervous system, or CNS.
While this does lower the risk of seizures in epileptics, many commonly prescribed anticonvulsants such as Phenobarbital, Phenytoin, Carbamazepine, Sodium valproate,5
3. Dopamine Agonists
Parkinson’s sufferers will be familiar with dopamine agonists, as they’re commonly prescribed to activate dopamine receptors, causing a release of dopamine, also known as the happy hormone.
The potential side effects of these aren’t so
Due to dopamine being used in so many different reactions within the brain, altering your body’s natural levels can cause skewed signaling and misfiring messages.
Suffering from allergies is a real kicker, but taking antihistamines may not be the best option.
A 2015 report from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that persistent long-term use of antihistamines was associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.6
Certain anticholinergics (drugs used to treat incontinence) can have severe effects on brain aging. Some can be so strong in fact, that a 2006 study found that use of oxybutynin ER (a common anticholinergic) caused significant memory degradation, which was equivalent to study participants aging 10 years.7
6. Antihypertensive Drugs
Antihypertensive drugs such as beta blockers are given to patients with high blood pressure, as they work to slow the heart rate, correct irregular heart
You need to be very careful with the particular type of antihypertensive drug you use, as the most popular type - beta blockers - have been linked8
7. Narcotic Painkillers
If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from chronic pain, narcotic painkillers or opioid analgesics may be prescribed. These drugs interrupt pain signals between your brain and the rest of your body, changing your reaction to pain.
For patients under 50 years old, a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) may be a safer option, while patients over 50 should speak with their healthcare provider.
Benzodiazepines have a sedative effect, meaning that they dampen certain parts of the brain. While this can aid relaxation and stress relief, memory can also be severely impaired, particularly the naturally-occurring process of transferring events from short-term to long-term memory, making you feel forgetful.
Shockingly, benzodiazepine use is correlated with an increased risk of dementia9 and according to Beverly Merz, Executive Editor at Harvard Women's Health Watch, studies have shown that taking these drugs for three to six months can raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 32%, and taking it for more than six months boosts the risk by 84%.10
If your doctor suggests you take any type of benzodiazepines, it’s vital that you’re made aware of the potential side effects, what the minimal effective dose is given, for the shortest time possible.11
Antidepressants, specifically TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants), aren’t just prescribed for depression, and doctors may suggest you take them if you suffer from OCD, anxiety or even eating disorders.
Around 35% of adults taking TCAs claim to suffer some degree of memory impairment, while 54% experience more frequent lapses in concentration.
10. Sleeping Aids
The side effects associated with sleeping aids such as zaleplon and eszopiclone are similar to those of benzodiazepines, particularly amnesia and short-term memory loss.
Time to Throw Out the Medicine Cabinet?
While all these medications may potentially be harmful to your health and prematurely age your brain, you shouldn’t disregarded your physician’s advice straight away.
Therefore, it’s vital that you ask questions, do a little research and ask if you’re unsure about anything.