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Blood Pressure Meds May Cut Alzheimer’s Risk

Inexpensive blood pressure medications may help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

People with early thinking and memory issues who took an ACE inhibitor or an ARB medication for their high blood pressure were less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those on other BP drugs.

“All of these blood pressure medications have been available for decades. They’re all FDA-approved. They’re cheap. And blood pressure is easily controlled,” says researcher Whitney Wharton, PhD, an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Results from the study were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Previous research has shown that having high blood pressure by midlife raises the odds of getting Alzheimer’s disease down the road. But treating high BP with any combination of medication or lifestyle changes also appears to lower Alzheimer’s risk.

Some medications may be better at cutting the risk than others, though. That's because their size and the way they work allows them to be active in the brain.

Study Details
Wharton reviewed the medical records of 784 people with high blood pressure who had also been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. In other words, they had early changes in thinking and memory that put them at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

All of them were taking medications to lower their blood pressure, and 488 of them were taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs. Both work on the system of hormones that controls blood pressure.

Other types of medications lower BP in different ways. Diuretics are pills that rid the body of water and salt. Calcium channel blockers relax the muscle cells in the heart and blood vessels.

Wharton tracked these people’s progress over 3 to 5 years. Those on an ACE inhibitor or an ARB medication were less likely to have their mild cognitive impairment turn into Alzheimer’s disease than people taking other kinds of meds.

Among ACE inhibitors and ARBs, only certain drugs are tiny enough to pass through the membranes between the small blood vessels in the head into brain tissue.
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