Popular medication could increase dementia risk by 79%

What is dementia?

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Dementia describes a cluster of symptoms associated with ongoing cognitive decline. Worryingly, what you put into your body could make you more likely to develop the mind-robbing condition. A new study suggests that regularly taking a popular medication could hike your risk by a whopping 79 percent.

Studies have been reporting an increase in people with sleeping problems since the Covid pandemic threw the world into chaos.

From spending hours in front of computer screens to suffering from long Covid symptoms, there are various triggers that could be robbing you of a sweet slumber.

While sleeping medications could be a quick fix to this annoying issue, a new study prompts you to think twice before taking them.

Research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that white people had a 79 percent higher risk of developing dementia when on sleeping meds.

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The research team explained that the type and quantity of the medication may be factors in explaining this higher risk.

They arrived at these findings by looking at around 3,000 older adults without dementia, who lived outside of nursing homes.

This cohort was enrolled in the Health, Ageing and Body Composition study and followed over an average duration of nine years. 

Around 42 percent of these participants were black and 58 percent were white.

During the study period, 20 percent of patients went on to develop the mind-robbing condition.

The findings suggested that white participants who “often” or “almost always” took sleep medications had a 79 percent higher chance of developing dementia, compared to those who “never” or “rarely” used them. 

Among black participants – whose consumption of sleep aids was much lower – frequent use was also linked to a higher risk.

First author Yue Leng said: “Differences may be attributed to socio-economic status.

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“Black participants who have access to sleep medications might be a select group with high socio-economic status and, thus, greater cognitive reserve, making them less susceptible to dementia.

“It’s also possible that some sleep medications were associated with a higher risk of dementia than others.”

The research found that white people were three times more likely to take sleeping pills often, compared to the black cohort.

This included anything from medication prescribed for chronic insomnia to “Z-drugs” like Ambien.

Now, the research team is hoping that further studies can help offer clarity on the cognitive risks or rewards of sleep medications and the role that race may play.

But patients with poor sleep should hesitate before considering medications, according to Leng.

The researcher added: “The first step is to determine what kind of sleep issues patients are dealing with. 

“If insomnia is diagnosed, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT) is the first-line treatment. 

“If medication is to be used, melatonin might be a safer option, but we need more evidence to understand its long-term impact on health.”

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