January 15, 2020
Here’s another reason to take your blood pressure medications: Keeping your blood pressure in check in middle age may reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease down the road.
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” because it often produces no symptoms. But uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and other life-threatening complications. A growing body of evidence indicates it also raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Now a new review combining data from more than 30,000 people over age 55 suggests that keeping your blood pressure under control with medications may help to fend off Alzheimer’s disease.
The review, in Lancet Neurology, followed 31,000 participants for 7 to 22 years. About half of them had high blood pressure. During the study period, 1,741 developed Alzheimer’s disease, and another 3,728 developed other forms of dementia.
Among those with high blood pressure, those who were taking blood pressure medicines had a 16 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and a 12 percent lower risk of developing another form of dementia, than those who weren’t taking antihypertensive drugs. Importantly, those with hypertension who kept their blood pressure in check had about the same overall risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as those who had healthy blood pressure.
It didn’t matter which type of antihypertensive medication people were taking. Diuretics (water pills), beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers all seemed to have similar benefits for the brain.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that continues to confound scientists. Few drugs are available to treat the illness, and the few that are available do nothing to stop the downward progression of disease. While the search for a cure continues, growing interest has focused on lifestyle factors that may delay the onset or help to slow progression of the disease.
A heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, social interaction and mental stimulation may all help to lower Alzheimer’s risk, studies suggest. Keeping blood pressure under control may also help, this study shows.
By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.
Source: Jie Ding, PhD; Kendra L. Davis-Plourde, MA; Sanaz Sedaghat, PhD; et al: Antihypertensive medications and risk for incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: a meta-analysis of individual participant data from prospective cohort studies. Lancet Neurology, Nov. 6, 2019