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Common blood pressure drug may boost brain power, slow dementia decline

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Common blood pressure drug may boost brain power, lower risk of dementia

ACE inhibitors, a class of drug used to lower blood pressure, slows the rate of cognitive decline in dementia and even boosts brain power, according to a study published by BMJ Open.

Researchers from Ireland compared the rates of cognitive decline in 361 patients, with an average age of 77, who had either been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or a combinations of both

Among those patients, 85 were already taking ACE inhibitors while the rest were not.

In addition to comparing rates of cognitive decline, 30 of the patients who were newly prescribed ACE inhibitors were also assessed for their brain power activity during the first six months of treatment.

Between 1999 and 2010, the researchers used the Standardized Mini Mental State Examination (SMMSE) or the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment (Qmci) to test the cognitive decline of each patient on two separate occasions, six months apart.

Compared with those not taking ACE inhibitors, researchers found that patients who were taking ACE inhibitors had slower rates of cognitive decline in the study compared with patients who were not taking the drugs.

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The study also showed that patients who had been newly prescribed the ACE inhibitors over the six-month period, had improved brain power compared with both those already taking them and those not taking them at all.

The study authors note, however, that this boost in brain power could be the result of the newly prescribed patients having better blood pressure or improved blood flow to the brain.

"This [study] supports the growing body of evidence for the use of ACE inhibitors and other [blood pressure-lowering] agents in the management of dementia,” the researchers said. “Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits."

However, the researchers warn that previous research has suggested that ACE inhibitors may be harmful in some cases. Therefore, if any future benefit for using them to improve cognitive functioning in dementia is proven, it may be limited to certain groups of patient.

"If these data can be reproduced in a randomized trial of sufficient length, incorporating appropriate outcome measures, such as an amyloid positron emission tomography (PET), then these agents are likely to have significant benefits in delaying or even preventing dementia," the study authors said.

They added that there is a need for further research and a controlled trial to confirm their findings.

Click here to learn more about 5 commonly prescribed drugs with extra health benefits.

"Effects of centrally acting ACE inhibitors on the rate of cognitive decline in dementia," BMJ Open, 22 July 2013: e002881. DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002881