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Specific Blood Pressure Meds Protect From Dementia

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Blood Pressure and Dementia

New research shows that some popular blood pressure medications can protect from inflammation, reducing the risk of dementia and memory loss associated with aging. The study from Wake Forest researchers appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The results show that a class of drugs called ACE inhibitors that cross the blood brain barrier, offer protection from dementia.

Scientists know that high blood pressure increases risk of dementia and cognitive decline. The popular blood pressure medications relax and open blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the brain.

According to Kaycee Sink, M.D., M.A.S., lead author of the study, "High blood pressure is an important risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Our study found that all blood pressure medications may not be equal when it comes to reducing the risk of dementia in patients with hypertension”.

ACE inhibitors are “centrally acting” blood pressure medicines that affect the small blood vessels in the brain. The research showed that centrally-active ACE inhibitors specifically offered benefits that slowed rate of mental decline and dementia among study participants.

The study also found that some other blood pressure medications increase risk of dementia. Blood pressure medications that do not cross the blood brain barrier increased the risk of cognitive decline by 73 percent.

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Centrally acting ACE inhibitors used to treat blood pressure now found to protect patients with high blood pressure from dementia, include captropril, fosinopril, lisinopril, perindopril, ramipril and trandolapril. The researchers found a sixty five percent decreased chance of dementia associated with taking the blood pressure medications in the study participants.

Dr. Sink says, "ACE inhibitors have been shown to be beneficial to the heart and kidneys, and this study gives evidence that they may also be beneficial to the brain—at least the ones that are able to get into the brain.”

The use of ACE inhibitors to treat high blood pressure and also decrease risk of dementia should be considered says Sink.” If a patient has an indication for an ACE inhibitor, it makes sense to choose one that crosses the blood brain barrier. This is quite different from the typical recommendations for physicians to avoid medications in older adults that get into the brain."

The researchers looked at data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, examining 5,888 people over 65 years old from North Carolina, California, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to find that some popular blood pressure medications can slow dementia and reduce cognitive decline.

According to estimates, by the year 2050, 13 million people will be living with dementia, evidenced by memory loss and decline in ability toward problem solving.

Decreased risk of dementia was found among study participants specifically taking ACE inhibitor blood pressure medications that cross the blood brain barrier. There was no association with lower risk of dementia found from ACE inhibitors that did not cross the blood vessels in the brain.