How some high blood pressure drugs can lead to less memory decline

How some high blood pressure drugs can lead to less memory decline

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for CNT

A new study has shown how certain high blood pressure medications can lead to better memory recall.

The findings were published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

“Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition,” said study author Daniel A. Nation, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychological science in the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine. “Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition, while other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.”

High blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline and dementia in older adults. The United States has 108 million adults, or 45%, who have hypertension or are taking medication for it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. One large trial has shown treating high blood pressure with blood-pressure-lowering medicines decreased mild cognitive impairment cases by 19%.

In the new study, researchers evaluated medicines for their effects on attention, language, verbal memory, learning and recall. The blood pressure-lowering medicines were ones that do and do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain,” Nation said. “Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

The analysis involved 14 studies in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland and Japan. They involved almost 12,900 adults ages 50 years and older. Results showed older adults who took blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to 3 years compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier. This was the case even though the latter had a higher vascular risk. Adults who took hypertension medications that did not cross the blood-brain barrier had better attention for up to 3 years.

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory,” said study co-author Jean K. Ho, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine. “It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they medications that cross the blood-brain barrier.”

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By Troy Warren

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