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CAUTION! 4 Types of Meds That Can Be Dangerous for Aging Adults

At last count, a whopping 85% of U.S. adults over the age of 59 reported taking prescription drugs. And about a third of those in their 60’s and 70’s said they were taking five or more prescription meds on a regular basis.

Mix that with all of the over-the-counter (OTC) pills older adults take these days, and the potential consequences are just horrible!

You see, there’s something most people don’t know about prescription drugs.

Older adults are often excluded from clinical trials for the very same medications doctors use to treat them!

Consequently, most physicians know very little about how a given drug will affect their older patients.

This is a no-win situation for aging Americans…

The older people get, the more medications they are told to take. But, unlike the younger adults who participated in the trials, older bodies are less able to clear these drugs out of their systems.

Nearly all of these drugs – whether prescribed or OTC – are being passed through our liver and kidneys. And nobody tells you about the toll that the metabolization process takes on these organs.

Take NSAID drugs for example. Some are prescribed; a bunch of them are sold OTC at your local pharmacy or grocery store. You know their names. Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen…

But did you know that NSAIDS cause electrolyte imbalances, sodium retention, edema and other events that can damage the kidneys – and potentially lead to chronic kidney disease?

Not just that, but NSAIDS can greatly increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke. This added risk can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID. The longer you take it, the higher the risk.

And if you take NSAIDs regularly for arthritis or joint pain, the news isn’t good. These medications are known to speed up the breakdown of joint cartilage and prevent the formation of new cartilage. This hastens deterioration of the joints and actually accelerates arthritic damage!

Plus, don’t forget about the high risk of gastrointestinal bleeds and intracranial hemorrhages associated with regular aspirin use. The risks of these kinds of aspirin-related bleeds increase as we age.

Unfortunately, about 70% of people 65 years or older use some sort of NSAID at least once a week, with half of them taking at least 7 doses per week. How scary is that?

The OTC Meds that Harm Your Brain

Another form of OTC medication that is over-used in the U.S. are drugs that fall into the “anticholinergic” category.

Anticholinergic drugs aren’t a specific class of drugs. They just happen to have one, single thing in common: They block the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in your brain. This is the chemical messenger that fuels your memory and cognitive function.

People who take anticholinergic drugs perform much worse on cognitive tests than people who don’t take them. These drugs tend to affect short-term memory, verbal reasoning, planning skills and ability to solve problems.

One of the worst outcomes, by far, is an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Taking anticholinergics for between one and two years increases your chances of dementia by 23%. And taking them for three or more years kicks that risk up to 54%.

Plus, these drugs can make you feel confused and drowsy, which increases your fall risk.

Some very strong anticholinergics include Benadryl for allergies… Paxil for depression… Elavil for bladder symptoms… Unisom or Tylenol PM to sleep better… and so on.

You should be careful when using these drugs, especially if you are already taking other anticholinergics (i.e., allergy meds plus sleep aids plus bladder control).

2 More Cautions… And How to Move Forward.

As an aging adult, there are two more meds that you should be wary of.

Acid reducers known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are associated with vitamin B12 and magnesium deficiencies, kidney disease, dementia and reduced bone density. These drugs are meant only for short-term use, but many people take them for years and years – with or without their doctor’s advice.

Muscle relaxers do exactly what they say they do… relax your muscles. But they also cause drowsiness and are strong enough to impair your mental and physical abilities – which can result in disorientation, and also increase your chances of taking a tumble. Plus, they can be addictive.

This is a lot of information! So as a quick round-up, older adults should exercise caution with…

  • Long-term use of NSAID pain relievers, including aspirin.
  • Regular use of anticholinergic drugs such as allergy meds, sleep aids, bladder control products and some antidepressants.
  • Extended use of acid-reducing proton pump inhibitors.
  • Any and all use of muscle relaxers like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), methocarbamol (Robaxin) or carisoprodol (Soma).

If you take any of these meds, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist for safer alternatives.

In the meantime, remember that your liver and kidneys have to metabolize all of these drugs; and they have to work overtime to do their jobs. So if you’re on any of these meds, I highly recommend that you have your liver and kidney function checked at least twice a year.


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