Blood Pressure Drugs May Help Ward Off Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

LONDON, Jan. 14, 2010 - Angiotensin receptor blockers, drugs that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, according to research published on bmj.com today.

The study also concludes that angiotensin receptor blockers seem to offer greater protection against Alzheimer's disease and dementia than other high blood pressure and heart disease medication.

Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, threatens an increasing number of people as they get older. It also has major economic implications as individuals who suffer from either disease can spend long periods of time in nursing homes.

While dementia and Alzheimer's disease are complex diseases, there is increasing evidence of three main risk factors: age, genetics and heart disease. In particular, mid-life diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure seem to be linked to a higher chance of developing dementia.

This is the first large scale study to investigate whether angiotensin receptor blockers reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease, say the researchers.

The authors, led by Professor Benjamin Wolozin from Boston University School of Medicine, investigated the incidence of dementia in over 800,000 mostly (98%) male subjects in the US from 2002 to 2006. The participants had cardiovascular disease and were 65 years of age or older.

One group of research subjects were using angiotensin receptor blockers, another the blood pressure lowering drug lisinopril and the third, other comparative drugs used for heart disease.

The results show that the group on angiotensin receptor blockers were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia. They also demonstrate that angiotensin receptor blockers have an additive effect when used in combination with another type of high blood pressure drug (ACE inhibitors) - individuals with existing Alzheimer's disease or dementia who took both medicines were less likely to die early or be admitted to nursing homes.

Wolozin concludes that the research is important because it is the "first to compare both risk of dementia and progression of dementia in users of angiotensin receptor blockers compared with users of a drug from the same class (lisinopril) or users of other drugs prescribed for cardiovascular disease."

The public health implications of finding an effective way of preventing dementia are immense, say two senior doctors from the University of Calgary, in an accompanying editorial. However, further work is needed to verify the usefulness of antihypertensives in general and angiotensin receptor blockers in particular, they conclude.

Contacts:

Research: Professor Benjamin Wolozin, Department of Pharmacology and Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA Email: Gina.Digravio@bmc.org 

Editorial: Colleen Maxwell, Associate Professor, Departments of Community Health Sciences and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada Email: maxwell@ucalgary.ca

Posted: January 2010


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