Acetylcholine is a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter in the body. It has multiple actions, and many medications can block acetylcholine activity. A medication with this property is called "anticholinergic" . It's important to know if you are taking one or more anticholinergic medications if you are an older adult.
In this video, Dr. Didyk defines the term "anticholinergic" and provides a list of some common medications that should be avoided in older adults.
What is one thing you need to know about your medications?
There’s this chemical called acetyl choline, it's found throughout the body, it's called a neurotransmitter, one of many. It's a chemical that helps to send signals between the different nerves in the body. Acetylcholine is found throughout the body. It's in the lungs, the gut pretty much everywhere, but also the brain.
Medications that block the activity of acetylcholine at its receptors are called anticholinergic.
Common anticholinergic medications
There are even some scales that we use to determine how much anticholinergic burden or how many anticholinergic medications somebody is taking.
You can find an example, here: ACB_Handout_Version_03-09-10.pdf (americandeliriumsociety.org)
In the short term, anticholinergic medications can cause some bothersome side effects, they can cause dry eyes and dry mouth, as well as constipation and urinary retention. They can increase the risk of falls. And some recent studies have actually suggested that it may increase the risk of dementia if people are on anticholinergic medications for a long period of time.
So that's another question to ask your pharmacist. Is my medication anticholinergic? There might be some other alternatives that don't have anticholinergic properties that you could use instead. It's worth asking.