Commonly prescribed drugs may affect mental function of elderly

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Anticholinergic drugs, which are commonly prescribed for various ailments in the elderly, may cause mild mental impairment, according to new research.

French scientists who studied patients 60 years of age and older found that those who took anticholinergic drugs were at risk of developing mental impairment, even though their risk of dementia did not increase.

Anticholinergic drugs are prescribed for a variety of conditions, including nausea, spasms, irregular heart rhythm, allergies, asthma, pain, high blood pressure, Parkinson's disease, ulcers and certain mental disorders.

Study participants using anticholinergic drugs showed significantly worse performance in simple reaction time, attention, memory, narrative recall and verbal fluency.

The study report is published in the online issue of the British Medical Journal.