Memory Loss Side Effects with Prescription Drugs

22nd April 2014 by Christian Elliott

prescription-drugs-memory-lossA number of prescription drugs, especially in combination with each other, can cause unintended memory loss symptoms.

Some of the more common prescription medications known to cause memory problems are Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety meds) such as lprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion).

Tricyclic antidepressants, initially developed in the 1950s, are now commonly prescribed for other conditions such as chronic pain and eating disorders. Common prescriptions include: Amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Sinequan), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil) and trimipramine (Surmontil).

Anticholinergics are routinely prescribed to older adults for incontinence and overactive bladder. Common prescriptions include: Darifenacin (Enablex), oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Gelnique, Oxytrol), solifenacin (Vesicare), tolterodine (Detrol) and trospium (Sanctura). Long term use of anticholinergics in older adults can significantly increase the probability of cognitive impairment and memory loss symptoms. See this study for more detail.

A Note on Statins (Cholesterol lowering drugs)

While anecdotal stories have frequently appeared in the media regarding memory loss symptoms being linked to statin drug use, the research evidence is weak and tenuous at best. Potential adverse effects might be resolved by switching from lipophilic to hydrophilic statins. See this study and this study for more detail.

See also: When Memory Loss isn’t Alzheimer’s – Vitamin B Deficiencies


    Migraine Suppression Device Approved by FDA

    21st April 2014 by Christian Elliott

    migraine-tens-headbandThe U.S. FDA recently approved an interesting approach for treating migraines that doesn’t involve the standard treatment regimen of migraine medications.

    Using the principle of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), the device is a headband that delivers small electrical impulses to branches of the trigeminal nerve, a nerve responsible for facial sensations and motor functions. The trigeminal nerve is also implicated in migraine attacks.

    The results of a clinical study using the Cefaly headband showed that study participants experienced significantly fewer days with migraines per month and used less migraine attack medication. For people who tend to have adverse side effects from migraine medications, a TENS headband could be a useful alternative.

    An important note: in the clinical trial, the headband device did not reduce pain when a migraine attack was already in progress, so this approach isn’t a cure-all for migraine symptoms.

    See also: Migraine Update: Visual Auras and Heart Health


      Your Brain Loves Coffee for Good Reasons

      20th April 2014 by Christian Elliott

      IMG_2561 The warmth. The wonderful aroma of roasted coffee beans. A fresh cup prepared just the way you like it: a morning and daily ritual practiced by millions of coffee drinkers around the world.

      The obvious reason that people consume over 8 million metric tons of coffee beans each year is for the caffeine, which metabolises primarily into paraxanthine. Paraxanthine raises epinephrine levels in the bloodstream, priming both our body and brain for increased activity.

      In addition to the reliable caffeine jolt that coffee provides, research studies show that there are several long term brain health benefits that habitual coffee drinkers enjoy:

      Coffee beans are full of antioxidents. It turns out that many people receive almost all of their antioxidents from drinking coffee, with tea and bananas a distant second and third choice. While coffee is a reasonable option for antioxidant intake, vegetables and fruits are also good choices. See this expanded list of brain healthy foods.

      Regular coffee consumption can provide some protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. No, coffee does not prevent or cure neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. But, some large scale studies do indicate that people who regularly consume 2-5 cups of coffee per day are afforded some incremental protection against symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, compared to age matched controls who don’t regularly consume coffee.

      Two cautionary notes for coffee drinkers: First, keep it simple on adding milk, sugar, and other treats to your coffee. A 20 ounce white chocolate mocha clocks in at over 500 calories, just for one drink!

      Second, older adults metabolise caffeine at a much slower rate than a 25 year old. If you’re over 50, have your last cup of coffee before 3pm, if you want a good night’s sleep.

      See also: This is Your Brain on Fat and Sugar


        Protecting Memory Health Organically

        25th February 2014 by Christian Elliott

        strawberry-flavonol-memorySome interesting work being done by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies with organic compounds that appear to provide some protection against memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

        The Salk researchers applied flavonols, a type of chemical with strong anti-oxidant properties found in many fruits and vegetables, to a mouse model that mimics symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

        The results showed that adding a type of flavonol (fisetin) to the diet of mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s symptoms allowed these mice to perform as well as their normal counterparts on water maze tests (a classic lab test for learning and memory).

        Another important finding was that adding flavonol to the diet of mice prone to Alzheimer’s did not eliminate the presence of amyloid beta deposits in the brain, even though memory performance improved. This second finding adds further to evidence that the amyloid hypothesis for AD is probably wrong.

        The Salk Institute work broadens out alternative methods for preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia, and also points to a growing market for “medical grade” diet and food choices.

        See also: When Memory Loss Isn’t Alzheimer’s or Dementia: Vitamin B Deficiencies


          Can Infant Brain Scans Predict Future Alzheimer’s Risk?

          25th January 2014 by Christian Elliott

          baby-brain-scanIn a study destined to generate some controversy, researchers at Brown University and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute have identified significant differences in the brain scans of babies (ages 2 months to 25 months), based on their APOE4 gene status, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

          A total of 162 sleeping babies underwent MRI brain scans that recorded brain development markers – white matter myelin water fraction (MWF) and gray matter volume (GMV) in several brain regions.

          The results showed that the infants who were APOE4 carriers had lower MWF and GMV readings in brain areas affected by Alzheimer’s, compared to infants that did not have the APOE4 gene type.

          So does this study predict which infants will develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life as adults? No, of course not.

          But it does raise some very interesting issues on the interplay between genetic risk factors (the copies of genes you receive from your parents), and environmental risk factors (access to education, diet & exercise choices, concussion history, etc).

          The Brown University study moves us towards a “lifespan” view of neurological diseases – that based on the human genetic lottery, a particular person’s brain simply may be more vulnerable to brain diseases during his or her lifetime.

          The challenge (and opportunity), then becomes to identify the most useful interventions (both pharmacological and lifestyle) that can improve brain health, using personal genome information to guide choices along the way.

          The next decade will be very interesting on this front!

          See also: Brain Health Primer: Four Ways to Maintain Your Brain

          See also: Take the Healthy Brain Test