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Common Medications Could Cause Physical Impairment in the Elderly
Date:5/3/2008

Drugs for acid reflux, urinary incontinence 'slow down' seniors, studies say

SATURDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Two new studies show that anticholinergics, a commonly prescribed group of drugs, may cause elderly people to "slow down" in their daily physical activities.

The two reports from researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine support findings released a few weeks ago that anticholinergic drugs -- which treat a variety of diseases and conditions, including acid reflux, Parkinson's disease and urinary incontinence -- may cause older people to lose their thinking skills more quickly than those who don't take the medicines.

Anticholinergic drugs work by stopping acetylcholine, a chemical that enhances communication between nerve cells in the brain, from binding to its receptors in nerve cells.

In the first Wake Forest study, older adults taking anticholinergics became more likely to walk more slowly and to need help in other daily activities.

"These results were true even in older adults who have normal memory and thinking abilities," study author Dr. Kaycee M. Sink said in a prepared statement. "For older adults taking a moderately anticholinergic medication, or two or more mildly anticholinergic medications, their function was similar to that of someone three to four years older."

Common anticholinergic medicines cited in the study included the blood pressure medication nifedipine (Adalat or Procardia), the stomach antacid ranitidine (Zantac) and the incontinence medication tolterodine (Detrol).

The findings, which involved more than 3,000 people, average age 78, were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the American Geriatrics Society annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

In a separate Wake Forest study, published online in April in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Sink found that older nursing home residents who took medicines for de
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