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Is your Cold Medicine causing your brain to shrink?

If over-the-counter anticholinergic medications, such as Benadryl, Tylenol and Advil are your go-to drug for headache or pain – you need to heed this warning!  A new study shows that taking these over-the-counter drugs can be harmful to the brain and cause it to shrink.

Shrinking Brain

Anticholinergic are kind of drugs that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. The new study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggests that taking anticholinergic medications can reduce brain volume and enlarge ventricles in the brain. This will lead to lesser cognitive responses.

Common over-the-counter medicines should be avoided by older people as they have been linked to memory loss and problems in thinking, scientists have discovered. Treatments for colds and flu, hay fever, allergy and heartburn tablets containing anti-cholinergic drugs had the effect for one month after treatment, a study found.

Effects associated with taking the drugs included having slower brain processing times and smaller brains overall. Well known treatments including the heartburn medicine Zantac, Night Nurse Liquid containing Promethazine and the sleeping tablet Nytol, containing diphenhydramine, are included among drugs that may result in the effects, the research said.

For the study, researchers analyzed already existing data of 451 people from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and the Indiana Memory and Aging Study (IMAS), aging from 70 to 75 with normal brains. The participants underwent memory and cognition tests, MIR scans, brain structureassesments and PET scans to measure brain metabolism.

The researchers discovered that participants who took at least one anticholinergic medication performed poorer in the short memory test compared to those who did not take over-the-counter cold medicine. Lower brain volumes and less glucose metabolism in the whole brain and the temporal lobe were also observed in the users of anticholinergic medications.

According to CNN, there are already many studies linking anticholinergic medications to dementia and loss of cognitive function. However, the recent study is the first one to take a closer look at the physical changes of the brain that causes cognitive decline.

Other side effects of anticholinergic medications include dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, drowsiness, sedation, hallucinations, difficulty urinating, confusion, delirium and decrease sweating and saliva. Researchers then advise everyone, especially adults, to check in with their health care providers before taking any over-the-counter medications to relieve pain or discomfort.

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