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Blood Pressure & Dementia: Medications Do Double-Duty

People taking blood pressure drugs may be less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Learn about this study's results and which drugs are best.
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People taking the blood pressure drugs called beta blockers may be less likely to have changes in the brain that can be signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

This is according to a study released that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s  Annual Meeting in San Diego.

The study involved 774 elderly Japanese-American men who took part in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Autopsies were performed on the men after their death. Of the 774 men, 610 had high blood pressure or were being treated with medication for high blood pressure. Among those who had been treated (about 350), 15 percent received only a beta blocker medication, 18 percent received a beta blocker plus one or more other medications, and the rest of the participants received other blood pressure drugs.

The study found that all types of blood pressure treatments were clearly better than no treatment. However, men who had received beta blockers as their only blood pressure medication had fewer abnormalities in their brains compared to those who had not been treated for their hypertension, or who had received other blood pressure medications. The brains of participants who had received beta blockers plus other medications showed an intermediate reduction in numbers of brain abnormalities.

These included two distinct types of brain lesion: those indicating Alzheimer’s disease, and lesions called microinfarcts, usually attributed to tiny, multiple, unrecognized strokes. Study participants who had taken beta blockers alone or in combination with another blood pressure medication had significantly less shrinkage in their brains.

“With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease expected to grow significantly as our population ages, it is increasingly important to identify factors that could delay or prevent the disease,” said study author Lon White, MD, of the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu. “These results are exciting, especially since beta blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure.”

Earlier research has shown that high blood pressure in midlife is a strong risk factor for dementia.

  • The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
  • The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
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B. Berger

B. Berger

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chaffe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. With a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia appearing on the internet every 7 minutes, the site’s focus on the best information has been a help to many over the past 15 years. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

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