We wish it wasn’t the case but, unfortunately, memory loss is a hot topic. People have countless questions about brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. What really causes it? Will there ever be a cure? Are there any natural preventatives? How do my other medications that I’m taking affect my risk of such problems?
Many prescriptions have been linked to memory loss! We hope to answer these questions and more below. So, if you or a loved one is worried about or currently living with this problem, please keep reading…
How Common Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Most people associate Alzheimer’s with memory loss, one of first and most common symptoms of the disease. On average, the progressive (and currently) irreversible brain disorder starts affecting people after 60 years of age.  However, there are many factors that contribute to an individual’s experience such as their genes, diet, lifestyle habits, and more.
According to Alzheimers.net, there are 44 million people who have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, approximately 5,700,000 of whom are American. Health officials expect that number to rise to 16 million by 2050. And because it’s the sixth leading cause of death in America – the only one in the top 10 that cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed – it demands everyone’s attention. [1,2]
10 Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
- Memory loss
- Inability to plan things or solve problems
- Difficulty completing simple tasks
- Getting confused about times, dates, and places
- Inability to understand spatial relationships and visuals
- New problems when it comes to speaking or writing
- Forgetting where you put stuff and being unable to retrace steps
- Increasingly poor judgement
- Growing less and less social
- Uncharacteristic changes in mood and personality
How About Dementia?
Not unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, general dementia is also a progressive syndrome that impairs your cognitive function. That is, your ability to think, reason, remember, and behave properly (if at all). Many of the symptoms actually overlap with those of Alzheimer’s disease. 
Growing by 10 million new cases per year, there are around 50 million people worldwide currently living with dementia… According to the World Health Organization, that’s a figure that we expect to hit 82,000,000 by 2030 and 152,000,000. 
Although these numbers are alarming, there are numerous ways to decrease your risk of development Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia – naturally and otherwise. But the possibility of keeping the number of dementia cases to a minimum seems unlikely when so many people are on medications that can increase the likelihood of getting it.
Common Drugs Like Benadryl Linked to Increased Dementia Risk
In March 2015, researchers published a prospective cohort study in JAMA Internal Medicine called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia.” The University of Washington and Seattle healthcare system, Group Health, conducted the long-term study which tracked 3,434 men and women who were aged 65 and up, and had no dementia when the study began. 
The team accessed every participant’s history of drug use for the previous decade, including both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Over a 7-year timeline, they followed up with all the participants every two years, during which 797 participants developed dementia (637 of whom developed Alzheimer’s disease).
As researchers looked back on what those 797 individuals took, anticholinergic drugsbecame the main suspect. The most common anticholinergics participants used were tricyclic antidepressants, first-generation antihistamines, and bladder antimuscarinics. Compared to those who didn’t take anticholinergic drugs, people who did for as little as three years were 54% more likely to develop dementia.
What Are Anticholinergics?
Usually, these types of drugs are prescribed to treat problems including urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Anticholinergic drugs’ main purpose is to block the actions and effects of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which causes muscles to contract, activates pain responses and regulates endocrine and REM sleep functions. 
It’s just a natural fact of life – as we age, our bodies’ ability to produce acetylcholine decreases.  Since the brain actually contains many acetylcholine-producing cells, as Harvard editor Beverly Merz highlights, “blocking its effects can deliver a double whammy to older people.” 
If you want to keep your head clear and brain functioning as highly as possible, steering clear of anticholinergic drugs seems ideal. However, it is important to recognize that the long-term study revealed only a small portion of drugs was interfering with cognitive function. So, please discuss with your doctor if you’re thinking of getting off any prescribed medications.
Experiencing Memory Loss? It’s Not Necessarily Alzheimer’s
There are reversible dementias that, although worrisome, people can treat and even overcome. Some of these problems might surprise you: 
Although this condition seems similar to dementia, the mental changes that occur in delirium happen within days in comparison to months or years. Another key distinction between these two problems is that with dementia, you maintain consciousness; with delirium, you don’t.
People with depression have likely experienced moments of forgetfulness and disorientation. A simple way to tell the difference between depression and dementia is looking at the timeline… Depressed people become depressed first and experience memory-related symptoms later, whereas people with dementia become depressed as a result of their declining cognitive function.
3) Vitamin B12 Deficiency
This crucial deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, a rare condition associated with confusion, slowness, apathy, and irritability. If you suspect this is the case, see your doctor as soon as possible to make sure your body can even absorb vitamin B12 properly.
4) Thyroid Disease
Individuals with hypothyroidism will likely exhibit dementia-like symptoms. One of the best things you can do is get a thyroid hormone blood test to determine the best possible treatment.
People who are alcoholic can suffer bouts of confusion and amnesia which can mimic the same experiences as someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Although alcoholism can deteriorate the ability to remember and orientate oneself, abstinence and overcoming addiction can help reverse dementia.
 Alzheimer’s Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/
 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs
 Dementia. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
 Gray, S. L. (2015, March 01). Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2091745
 Anticholinergics: List, Side Effects, and More. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/anticholinergics
 Acetylcholine (ACh). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://memorylossonline.com/glossary/acetylcholine.html
 Merz, B. (2017, May 23). Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-anticholinergic-drugs-like-benadryl-linked-increased-dementia-risk-201501287667
 What’s Causing Your Memory Loss? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/whats-causing-your-memory-loss.htm#top
 Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet
Full article: https://realfarmacy.com/drug-dementia/
To fight a rising tide of depression and suicide, psychiatrists need to do more than just fill patients up with pills
The New York Times recently published an important investigative report shining a long-overdue light on the painful, sometimes disabling experience of withdrawing from antidepressants – drugs that millions of Americans have been taking, sometimes for decades
The recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain threw into stark relief the human toll that depression can take. But the problem is complex, with multiple factors. We are seeing a striking increase in the number of Americans diagnosed with depression, and an accompanying increase in suicides. This is coupled with the promiscuous and sharply increasing prescription of antidepressants to 34.4 million Americans in 2013-2014, up from 13.4 million just 15 years earlier. And this pervasive prescribing continues despite the lack of proof of the drugs’ long-term effectiveness; their mixed results even with short-term treatment; the frequent side-effects – weight gain, gastrointestinal problems and sexual dysfunction – that are themselves depressing. Meanwhile, we are paying the prohibitive financial costs of depression – an estimated annual average of $210.5bn in treatment and lost productivity.
These numbers raise critical questions: why are so many Americans becoming depressed? Why do rates of suicide, depression’s dire and irreversible consequence, continue to increase – by 25% since 1999 according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report? Why are we treating vast numbers of these depressed and suicidal people with drugs that are of limited effectiveness? How can we do better?
Depression is characterized by low energy and despondency, negative self-esteem, pervasive pessimism, difficulties with eating, sleeping and sexual functioning, and helplessness and hopelessness. It is caused by biological, psychological, social and economic and spiritual challenges which are increasing in number and severity and often compound one another. These include decreases in social support and the loneliness that follows; high levels of stress about the economy, and the future; the hyper-competitiveness and hypercritical self-assessments of youth; sedentary lifestyles and poor diet; and our addiction to our digital devices.
The prevailing psychopharmacological treatment is based on the theory that depression is a neurotransmitter disorder. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and physicians are fond of making an analogy between depression and type-1 diabetes. The bodies of type 1 diabetics do not produce enough insulin, so diabetics receive insulin by injection. Depressed people, the analogy goes, are incapable of producing adequate amounts of neurotransmitters and must be prescribed drugs to increase them.
This is incomplete and misleading. Some depressed people may have lower levels of serotonin or norepinephrine. But no one knows how many, and doctors rarely measure these levels before prescribing drugs. A variety of emotional, social, nutritional and environmental factors affect a person’s fluctuating neurotransmitter levels, which in turn affect how a person functions. In other words, low levels are likely to be the symptoms, not the cause, of depression. Unfortunately, the prevalent view of depression as a “Prozac deficiency disease” prevents many Americans from seeking out a more comprehensive, safe and effective approach, grounded in self-care and group support.
Meditation is fundamental to this approach. Slow, deep breathing relaxes our body, quiets our mind, and lowers the stress which often precipitates depression. It quiets activity in the amygdala, a portion of the emotional brain responsible for fear and anger, and enhances activity in the hippocampus, which mediates stress and memory and is damaged by depression. Meditation thereby promotes functioning and increases tissue mass in the frontal part of the cerebral cortex, where depression has inhibited judgment, self-awareness and compassion. Meditation also makes it easier for us to connect with others who may provide comfort, intimacy and support. It gives us perspective – helping us see that what seemed insurmountable is manageable. It promotes compassion, and facilitates finding mood- and life-enhancing meaning and purpose.
Physical activity complements meditation. As a depressed person moves, she overcomes her inertia, releases tension and reclaims and enjoys a body that seemed alien, even hostile. Jogging, tai chi, yoga and dance all lower stress and stress hormones, may help rebuild the hippocampus and enhance activity in the frontal cortex. Exercise by itself can be at least as effective as drugs in relieving depression.
These self-care tools enhance the production of the neurotransmitters that drugs are aimed at – serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – without damaging side-effects. And the active engagement that self-care requires may itself be the most effective antidote to depression’s hallmark symptoms of hopelessness and helplessness.