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Blood Pressure Medications may Thwart Alzheimer's Dementia
While high blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common, affecting one in three Americans, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Fortunately, we now have a wide variety of medications that address the problem in different ways. The average person with hypertension requires a combination of drugs to help bring the blood pressure into a safe range. One of the newer classes of drugs is the angiotensin-II receptor blockers, or ARBs. Cozaar (generically known as losartan), the first ARB, was introduced in 1995. Other commonly prescribed ARBs include Atacand, Avapro, Benicar, Diovan, Edarbi, and Micardis.
Angiotensin-II is a naturally occurring hormone that can contribute to high blood pressure through its effects on the kidneys. However, like most other hormones it has a wide range of effects. Researchers have recently discovered that angiotensin-II is involved with the production of a harmful substance in the brain known as amyloid. Amyloid is typically found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s dementia.
Intrigued by this connection, Dr. Ihab Hajjar and colleagues at the University of California Los Angeles looked at brain autopsies of patients with hypertension who had been treated with ARB drugs, and compared them to a similar group of patients who had not received an ARB. In all, the brains of 890 people were studied.
The differences between the two groups were striking. Overall, people who had taken ARB drugs were substantially less likely to have evidence of the typical Alzheimer’s amyloid deposits compared to those who had taken other types of blood pressure medications. Testing of the ARB-treated patients prior to their deaths showed higher scores on tests of memory and overall mental function.
It is too soon to know whether ARBs might one day be used to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s dementia, but if your doctor has prescribed an ARB for high blood pressure, this is one more reason to feel good about taking your medication.