I'm all about helping you age-proof your body and mind — sharing the secrets to a long life that's filled with purpose and joy, no matter what challenges life throws your way.
But I realize that those challenges can get pretty overwhelming. I see patients all the time who struggle with stressors most Americans didn't even think about a few years ago. Stuff like information overload, being "on" 24/7, and chronic financial insecurity. Add those woes to eternal human challenges like caring for loved ones, finding meaning, and dealing with change and loss, and it's no wonder we're being diagnosed with anxiety and depression in record numbers.
Way too many of us are chronically worried, and we aren't sleeping well either. As a result, many people turn to tranquilizers. Drugs like Valium and Xanax are some of the most prescribed in the U.S.
Unfortunately, new research is raising concerns that this class of drugs, known as benzodiazepines, may be bad for our brains. An important study published in The BMJ has found that elderly adults who took these drugs for longer than three months were 51% more likely than those who didn't to develop Alzheimer's disease.
Does this prove that benzodiazepines cause Alzheimer's?
The folks in this study had been taking tranquilizers for at least five years before receiving an Alzheimer's diagnosis. So it could be that anxiety, insomnia, or depression were early symptoms of the disease and that's why these individuals were more likely to be on the drugs.
But the researchers found the evidence of a direct link between benzodiazepines and Alzheimer's compelling enough to state that long-term use should be seen as a concern to public health.
And this issue is just the latest addition to a host of concerns about tranquilizers, including the prevalence of addiction and abuse.
The bottom line is that use of these drugs should be brief and reserved as a last resort for extreme cases.
When it comes to being age-proof and living your best, turn away from tranquilizers. If you're on them, don't ditch them suddenly, but work with your doctor to wean yourself off. Then turn toward making lasting improvements to your body and mind.