Medications can influence cognitive and physical functioning

The association between medications and aging
Animal studies have shown that certain medications originally developed for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and urinary disorders may have anti-aging benefits. For example, the diabetes drug metformin has been linked to improved cognitive function. In addition, some cholesterol and blood pressure medications may reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s risk. However, the evidence is not yet conclusive, and more studies in humans are needed. This study explored the longitudinal effect of some of the most used medications and their impact on cognitive function, functional abilities, and frailty.

Three NEAR population studies were used to investigate this: the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (SATSA), a Longitudinal Study of Gender Differences in Health Behavior and Health among Elderly (GENDER), and the Origins of Variance in the Oldest-Old: Octogenarian Twins (OCTO-Twin).

Photo: Jarmoluk, Pixabay

Certain medications are related to better cognitive and physical functioning
From 1986 to 2014, the authors examined the 21 most commonly used medications in 1427 persons aged 65 years and older. Over a 30-year follow-up, it was found that medicines for respiratory issues and cholesterol (adrenergic/inhalants and lipid-modifying agents) were linked to better cognitive functioning. Moreover, selective calcium channel blockers, often used for vascular health, were associated with improvements in physical functioning such as hearing, vision, grip strength, walking speed, and lung function. Interestingly, none of the medications affected the frailty index positively. The findings suggest that medications with mainly vascular effects may benefit cognitive and physical functional biomarkers of aging. More studies are needed to further investigate these medications’ potential for averting negative consequences associated with aging.

Thaís Lopes De Oliveira, first author of the study. Photo: Gunilla Sonnebring

Congratulations Thaís on your results! What was it like to work with NEAR data?
Harmonizing data can be both exciting and challenging. However, working with NEAR data has been a great opportunity to learn and enhance my data science skills. It has also contributed to my ability to work effectively in teams, as I frequently needed assistance from the NEAR technical support team.

Most unexpected research finding:
Medicines for respiratory issues (adrenergic/inhalants) were associated with better cognitive functioning.

Best tips for working with NEAR data:
Contact the technical support team for help when you need it, they are great.

How do you keep your cognitive and physical functioning intact?
I do crafts (e.g., crochet) and practice physical activity (e.g., go to the gym and walk with my dog).

Best tips to regain focus:
Taking a 5-10-minute break or going for a short walk helps me refocus afterward.


Lopes De Oliveira T, Tang B, Bai G, Sjölander A, Jylhävä J, Finkel D, Pedersen NL, Hassing LB, Reynolds CA, Karlsson IK, Hägg S. Effects from medications on functional biomarkers of aging in three longitudinal studies of aging in Sweden. Aging Cell. 2024 Mar 1:e14132. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1111/acel.14132.