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Mind and Body

Common OTC Drugs Putting Elderly at Increased Risk

Hundreds of thousands of older people taking well-known common drugs could be at increased risk of dementia and even death, new UK research suggests, Sky News reported Friday.

A study of 13,000 people uncovered the risks from over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including some antihistamines, painkillers, blood thinners and eye drops for glaucoma.

Researchers say side effects from the drugs could have an impact on the brain, increasing the risk of decline and death.

They analyzed over 80 drugs for "anticholinergic activity," a potential side effect which affects the brain by blocking a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

The drugs were ranked from one to three according to the strength of this activity, with drugs scoring one having a mild effect, two a moderate effect and three causing the most serious concern.

Taking a combination of drugs -- such as four scored at one each -- increased the risks of anticholinergic activity, with experts saying the threshold for damage in patients was a total score of about four.