People over the age of 65 who take certain sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications may face a higher risk of developing dementia within 15 years compared with those who never took the pills, a study suggests.
Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. It’s estimated that between 22 per cent and 27 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 use the drugs regularly, a rate that rises to more than 30 per cent among those over age 85, according to a 2010 study in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal.
Benzodiazepines are meant to be taken for up to six weeks to treat insomnia and Health Canada recommends taking them for anxiety for no more than two months.
But in Thursday's online issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers from France found 1.55 times higher odds of dementia among benzodiazepine users than non-users living in southwest France over 15 years of followup.
Chronic use raises public health concern
"In this large, prospective, population based study of people who were free of dementia and did not use benzodiazepines until at least the third year of followup, new use of benzodiazepines was associated with a significant, approximately 50 per cent increase, in the risk of dementia," Bernard Bégaud of the University of Bordeaux and his co-authors concluded.
"Our data add to the accumulating evidence that use of benzodiazepines is associated with increased risk of dementia, which, given the high and often chronic consumption of these drugs in many countries, would constitute a substantial public health concern."
Researchers said they started looking for dementia after three years to adjust for factors associated with starting to use benzodiazepines. Insomnia, depression and anxiety are the main indications for prescribing benzodiazepines. Since the same symptoms can also occur early in dementia, it can be difficult for investigators to sort out cause and effect.
They noted that benzodiazepines remain useful for treating acute anxiety and insomnia.
Drawbacks of the study included a limited number of new users of the drugs when the study began, and an inability to adjust for anxiety and sleep disorders separately.
The benzodiazepines included in the study were alprazolam, bromazepam, chlordiazepoxide, clobazam, clonazepam, clorazepate, clotiazepam, diazepam, estazolam, flunitrazepam, loflazepate, loprazolam, lormetazepam, nitrazepam, nordazepam, prazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, tetrazepam, tofizopam, triazolam, zolpidem, and zopiclone.
The study was funded by academic research grants.
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Daily Chores And Exercise
A recent study in the <a href="http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2012/04/18/WNL.0b013e3182535f0e.extract" target="_hplink">journal <em>Neurology</em></a> showed that simple activities like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/chores-alzheimers-exercise-_n_1440969.html" target="_hplink">cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes</a> -- as well as good, old-fashioned exercise -- is associated with a decreased Alzheimer's disease risk, even among people who are age 80 and older. <br> <br> Researchers found that the people who were the least active each day -- in the bottom 10th percentile in the study -- were two times more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer's disease, compared with people who were in the top 10th percentile for daily activity. <br> <br> The results were even more marked when evaluating the intensity of physical activity: Those who were in the bottom 10th percentile for physical activity intensity were three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's, compared with those in the top 10th percentile.
Speak Two Languages
Being bilingual could strengthen your brainpower and protect against dementia, according to a recent study published in the <a href="http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/" target="_hplink">journal <em>Trends in Cognitive Sciences</em></a>. <br> <br> HuffPost Canada Living <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/02/benefits-of-being-bilingual_n_1396671.html" target="_hplink">explains why</a>: <br> <br> <blockquote>The anticipation of having to speak one of two language at any given time forces the brain to run continually, and results in an experience that helps avoid a mental conflict between languages.</blockquote> <br> <br> "It is rather like a reserve tank in a car. When you run out of fuel, you can keep going for longer because there is a bit more in the safety tank," study researcher Dr. Ellen Bialystok <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/18/bilingual-alzheimers-brain-power-multitasking" target="_hplink">told <em>The Guardian</em></a>.
Research in flies suggests that the main compound in turmeric, called curcumin, could have powers against Alzheimer's. <br> <br> <em>The Telegraph</em> reported on a study in the journal <em>PLoS ONE</em>, which suggested that <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9084973/Having-a-curry-could-help-ward-off-dementia.html" target="_hplink">curcumin may work</a> by reducing the amount of oligomers, which are the "precursor" forms of amyloid plaques in the brain. <br> <br> A previous study in the journal <em>Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology</em> discussed the possible <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/" target="_hplink">effects of curcumin on Alzheimer's</a>. Researchers wrote: <br> <br> <blockquote>Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved.</blockquote>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/puzzles-and-exercise-help-beat-dementia-symptoms_n_1122502.html" target="_hplink">Doing some puzzles</a> and playing games every day could ward off mental decline, according to a recent study in the journal <em>BMC Medicine</em>. <br> <br> Researchers from the University of Erlangen conducted a study in dementia patients in nursing homes, and had the study participants do exercises like bowling and solving puzzles together, the Press Association reported. They also spent some time doing things like woodwork and gardening. <br> <br> The researchers found that all of these activities seemed to have the same effect on the study participants' <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/puzzles-and-exercise-help-beat-dementia-symptoms_n_1122502.html" target="_hplink">brain functioning</a>, compared with the typical dementia medication, the Press Association reported. <br> <br> Another recent study in the journal <em>Archives of Neurology</em> showed that life-long reading and game-playing could <a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=153901" target="_hplink">decrease beta amyloid levels</a> in the brain, which are considered a "hallmark of the condition," MedicineNet reported. <br> <br> "Staying cognitively active over the lifetime may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by preventing the accumulation of Alzheimer's-related pathology," study researcher Susan Landau, a research scientist at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, <a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=153901" target="_hplink">told MedicineNet</a>.
Elderly people who <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11537068" target="_hplink">walk six to nine miles a week</a> could decrease their risk of dementia and brain functioning problems, BBC News reported. <br> <br> The 2009 study in <em>Neurology</em> included 299 people whose average age was 78. Researchers found that people who walked the most in the study -- six to nine miles a week -- had a halved risk of developing the brain problems as people who walked the least in the study, according to BBC News. <br> <br> Similarly, a 2007 study that also appeared in the journal <em>Neurology</em> showed that people age 65 and older who regularly exercise have a <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-12/aaon-wam121107.php" target="_hplink">decreased risk of vascular dementia</a>. That study included 749 people.
Eat Your Fish And Nuts
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center found that eating a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/06/omega-3-fatty-acids-alzheimers-memory-brain_n_1475806.html" target="_hplink">diet high in omega-3 fatty acids</a> -- such as fish, nuts and chicken -- is linked with lower levels of of beta-amyloid protein, which is linked with Alzheimer's disease. <br> <br> The study, published in the journal Neurology, included 1,219 people age 65 and older who didn't have dementia. The researchers found that the higher their consumption of the omega-3 fatty acids, the lower the beta-amyloid in the blood.
Drink Green Tea
That refreshing green brew could have powers against Alzheimer's disease, according to research from Newcastle University. <br> <br> WebMD reported that when <a href="http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20110106/green-tea-may-help-prevent-alzheimers-disease" target="_hplink">green tea is digested</a>, the released compounds have protective effects against Alzheimer's. <br> <br> "When green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer's development than the undigested form of the tea," study researcher Ed Okello <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/06/green-tea-alzheimers-cancer" target="_hplink">told <em>The Guardian</em></a>.
Find out if there are any quick and easy brain training exercises you can do in order to prevent dementia.