Trends in the Use of Medications and Supplements to Treat or Prevent Dementia: A Population-Based Study


To examine older adults’ use over time of agents to treat or prevent dementia or enhance memory.


Longitudinal community study with 10-year annual follow-up (2006-2017).


Population-based cohort.


A total of 1982 individuals with a mean (SD) age of 77 (7.4) years at baseline.


Demographics, self-report, direct inspection of prescription antidementia drugs and nonprescription supplements, cognitive and functional assessments, Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR®) Dementia Staging Instrument.


Supplement use was reported by 27% to 42% of participants over 10 years. Use was associated with younger age, high school or greater education, good to excellent self-reported health, higher memory test scores, and absence of cognitive impairment or dementia (CDR=0). Over the same period, about 2% to 6% of participants took prescription dementia medications over 10 years. Use was associated with lower memory test scores, at least mild cognitive impairment (CDR≥0.5), fair to poor self-rated health, and high school or lesser education.


The use of both prescription drugs and supplements increased over time, except for decreases in ginkgo and vitamin E. Prescription drug use appeared in line with prescribing guidelines. Supplement use was associated with higher education and better self-rated health; it persists despite a lack of supportive evidence.