This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Between exercising, getting enough sleep, and consuming brain-protecting herbs, you may think you’re maximizing your odds of dodging many devastating brain diseases. However, there could be another serious factor that is greatly increasing your risk — your over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Over the past few years, and particularly in recent months, more and more evidence is suggesting that certain types of medication may increase the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Research that has recently been published suggests that both common over-the-counter drugs and pharmaceutical drugs may be nullifying all your efforts to protect your brain from these types of debilitating diseases. If you are regularly taking any of these three types of drugs, you may want to strongly reconsider, and instead turn to some of the natural solutions described below.
Sleeping Aids / Medication
It may come as a surprise, but even basic over-the-counter sleeping aids may bring an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This type of medication, which includes such products as Nytol, is classified as an anticholinergic drug. In a published study out of the University of Washington, researchers tracked a large population of 3,434 seniors for eight years. Shockingly, among those who took the highest doses of anticholinergic drugs, the researchers identified a 54 percent greater risk of developing dementia, and a 63 percent greater risk of Alzheimer’s. Although more research is needed, the results of this study are alarming and demand a heightened level of concern.
In order to limit your risk of disease due to anticholinergic drugs, strongly consider talking to your physician. You may be able to use different, safer types of medications to address your symptoms. But even better yet, try to find natural ways to get better sleep at night that work for you. These types of remedies are not only safe, but generally less expensive.
Another type of anticholinergic drug that is available over-the-counter, and widely used nationwide, is allergy medicine. This medication includes anti-allergy pills such as Benadryl and Piriton, which are most often purchased without a prescription and often used to combat hay fever. As this type of medication is also classified among anticholinergic drugs, the same precautions and risks accompany allergy medication as sleeping drugs. Fortunately, alternatives to medication exist for treating allergies too, and are worth trying before, or instead of, resorting to medication.
Anxiety and Depression Medication
The long-term use of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression — many of which are classified as benzodiazepines — may lead to both physical and mental health problems. In 2012, a study out of a French university found that among adults over age 65, those who took benzodiazepines were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia over a 15-year period as compared to those who did not. In support of these findings, a study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in 2009 concluded that the long-term use of benzodiazepines was significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia, and other health problems.
Rather than expose yourself to such risks, consider natural alternatives to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Activities such as exercise, meditation, yoga, healthy eating, regular sleep, and a multitude of other healthy, natural habits can all help.
In addition, consider using St. John’s wort — a natural, herbal supplement — as an alternative means of treating anxiety or depression. Therapy, may also be a much better method of treatment than medication. Analyze your particular situation, and consider talking to your doctor for advice regarding alternative methods to eliminate anxiety, stress, and depression.