Cognitive Decline in Older Persons Initiating Anticholinergic Medications

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Background:This study examines the effect of initiating medications with anticholinergic activity on the cognitive functions of older persons.Methods:Participants were 896 older community-dwelling, Catholic clergy without baseline dementia. Medication data was collected annually. The Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden Scale was utilized to identify use of a medication with probable or definite anticholinergic activity. Participants had at least two annual cognitive evaluations.Results:Over a mean follow-up of 10 years, the annual rate of global cognitive function decline for never users, prevalent users, and incident users was -0.062 (SE = 0.005), -0.081(SE = 0.011), and -0.096 (SE = 0.007) z-score units/year, respectively. Compared to never users, incident users had a more rapid decline (difference = -0.034 z-score units/year, SE = 0.008, p<0.001) while prevalent users did not have a significantly more rapid decline (p = 0.1).Conclusions:Older persons initiating a medication with anticholinergic activity have a steeper annual decline in cognitive functioning than those who are not taking these medications.




Shah, R. C., Janos, A. L., Kline, J. E., Yu, L., Leurgans, S. E., Wilson, R. S., … Tsao, J. W. (2013). Cognitive Decline in Older Persons Initiating Anticholinergic Medications. PLoS ONE, 8(5).

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