Anti-anxiety drugs may increase the risk of strokes in Alzheimer’s patients by as much as 20 percent, according to a study published in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology.
The study was based on data from a nationwide register-based review conducted at the University of Eastern Finland from 2005 to 2011, involving 45,050 people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-two percent started using anti-anxiety medication during the study.
Researchers determined that the patients who were prescribed anti-anxiety medications were 20 percent more likely to have a stroke than the patients who were not prescribed the drugs. The risk was seen with all strokes and ischemic stroke (caused by blood clots). The association with hemorrhagic stroke (caused by bleeding in the brain or the weakening of a blood vessel) was not significant but considering the small number of hemorrhagic stokes that happen in patients with Alzheimer’s, researchers determined the association could not be excluded.
The findings of this research are significant as anti-anxiety medications were not previously known to predispose patients to strokes or other cerebrovascular events, the researchers said.
Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. These patients also are prone to bouts of anxiety and are often treated with anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, or benzos, which include Xanax and Klonopin.