Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 11:52 UK

Blood pressure drug dementia hope

Older man
High blood pressure is linked to dementia

A drug used to lower blood pressure could prevent or delay thousands of Alzheimer's cases, US research has suggested.

People taking angiotensin receptor blockers were up to 40% less likely to develop dementia than those taking other blood pressure drugs.

And patients already suffering from dementia were less likely to get worse.

The number of people in the UK with dementia is expected to soar to 1.7 million over the next two decades.

This study highlights that it is becoming increasingly important to investigate blood pressure lowering drugs as a potential treatment for dementia
Professor Clive Ballard
Alzheimer's Society

This could mean an enormous extra burden for families and the taxpayer, but the Boston University School of Medicine research, presented at a conference in Chicago, suggests there could be ways to prevent it.

High blood pressure over long periods can lead to damaged blood vessels, and is known to increase the risk of not only strokes and heart disease, but dementia as well.

Some types of dementia are directly related to the condition of the arteries supplying the brain, but blood pressure is also thought to play a role in Alzheimer's disease, which is linked to the appearance of protein deposits in brain tissue.

However, the reasons for this are not clear.

Symptom delay

The research looked at records of approximately six million people treated for high blood pressure between 2001 and 2006.

Those who took angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) were less likely, over that period, to be diagnosed with dementia compared with those on other blood pressure medication such as ACE inhibitors.

If they already had dementia in 2001, they were 45% less likely to go on to develop delirium, be admitted to a nursing home, or die prematurely.

This evidence suggests that the drugs, which help prevent the constriction of blood vessels, could not only prevent, or at least delay, the arrival of dementia symptoms, but also slow down the progress of the disease.

ARBs are normally prescribed only to patients who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors.

Professor Clive Ballard, from the Alzheimer's Society, said that full clinical trials, following a smaller number of patients over a longer period, were now needed.

"High blood pressure doubles the risk of Alzheimer's disease and increases risk of stroke - this study highlights that it is becoming increasingly important to investigate blood pressure lowering drugs as a potential treatment for dementia.

"These findings will be important in stimulating further research into the relationship between anti-hypertension drugs and the development of dementia."

Alzheimer's disease
08 Jan 04 |  Medical notes

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