Allergies acting up?
This time of year…with the jasmine in bloom…the grass growing tall…the mold spores thriving…if you sneeze even once in public, you’re bound to get a single piece of advice.
Take some Benadryl!
And sure, it’ll dry up those watery eyes and keep your allergy symptoms at bay — but new research reveals a horrifying truth: It can also turn your gray matter into mush!
And it’s not just allergy meds.
Nerves got you on edge? Don’t forget your Xanax! Can’t sleep? Try some Unisom or Tylenol PM!
These drugs — some of the best-selling meds on the planet — seem to have little in common at first. They hit just about every major category and THEN some: colds, allergies, insomnia, pain, schizophrenia, bladder problems, depression, and more.
The one thing they DO have in common is that they block a key brain chemical called acetylcholine… but that stuff’s floating around in your gourd for a reason.
You need it… and when you fall short, you could pay a terrible price.
By giving seniors PET scans and MRIs and then putting them through the paces with cognitive tests, the new study looks at the toll these “anticholinergic” drugs can take both inside your skull…and out in the real world.
The folks who were taking the meds had problems on just about every level.
You’ve heard the phrase empty-headed? Well in this case it’s literally true — because seniors who take the drugs have SMALLER brains with MORE empty space inside.
Take enough Benadryl, and you might even hear an echo up there.
And that’s not all.
The scans also showed problems with glucose metabolism in the brain, especially in the temporal lobe — the part that plays a key role in memory.
Now, it’s one thing to have all those changes on the inside.
It’s quite another to have problems that all the world can see — and the seniors who had these changes flunked serious real-world tests.
They had the kind of problems that could turn your day-to-day life into a frustrating struggle. Their short-term memory was sputtering, and they even suffered problems with all-important executive function, including some of the most essential functions of all: planning and problem-solving.
That explains why other studies have found daily use of an anticholinergic drug for three years will boost your risk of dementia by 54 percent and Alzheimer’s disease by 63 percent.
Yet despite those risks, some seniors take two, three, four or more anticholinergic drugs AT A TIME without even realizing it — because no one seems to know what they are!
It’s usually not written on the label (not in a way you’d notice it anyway), so take a moment to get to know them so you can avoid them. You’ll find a full list at this link from Indiana University.
If any of those drugs are in your medicine chest, talk to a doc about an alternative — ideally something that’s not a drug at all.