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Commonly Prescribed Medication Linked to Stroke

February 15, 2018

Medication routinely prescribed for common complaints including allergies, heart disease and Parkinson's has been linked to an increased risk of stroke according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

The study, published this week in The International Journal of Epidemiology, has shown for the first time that patients treated with drugs with anticholinergic' side effects have a 60 percent increased risk of stroke.

Many common medications are known to have so-called anticholinergic properties. This can lead to disruption in communication between parts of the nervous system, and can manifest symptomatically as blurred vision, confusion and memory loss. The effect of anticholinergic drugs on stroke, however, has never been identified.

This study, the largest of its kind, calculated the risk of stroke in 22,000 people who were prescribed medicines with anticholinergic properties. The study population was drawn from men and women aged between 39—79 years who took part in the EPIC-Norfolk prospective population-based study. In the EPIC-Norfolk study, 25,639 participants were invited from general practice age-sex registers to complete a baseline health examination from 1993 to 1997. Participants were followed up in March 2016. This provided a long timeframe to examine the long-term risks of the medication. Results showed that those taking medicines with a high level of anticholinergic side effects had a 59 percent increased risk of having a stroke and an 86% increased risk of dying from stroke.

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