5-speed listening (Level 6)

Over-the-counter medicine may shrink brain



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Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine is a common part of our lives. Many of us pop into the local pharmacy for cold and headache tablets, cough syrups or allergy treatments. Over-the-counter drugs save the need to go to the doctor's. However, we may be causing ourselves more harm than good with these convenient cures. A new study published in the journal JAMA Neurology suggests that many of these handy medicines have unwanted, and sometimes serious, side effects. Researchers say that such side effects in older adults who often take widely available OTC medicines for asthma, aches and pains, insomnia and allergies, etc. include cognitive impairment, dementia and even brain shrinkage.

The study was conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine. Researchers examined the link between OTC medications and cognition in "cognitively normal" older people who did not have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The scientists found that OTC drugs led to a lower glucose metabolism, which is crucial for the brain to be healthy and function properly. Dr. Shannon Risacher said: "These findings provide us with a much better understanding of how this class of drugs may act upon the brain in ways that might raise the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia." She added: "I certainly wouldn't advise my grandparents or even my parents to take these medications unless they have to."

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