Common blood pressure pills could slow memory decline in over-50s, researchers say
- Researchers studied data on 12,000 adults taking blood pressure medication
- They explored different classes of blood pressure medication and their impact
- The team specifically looked at the impact of the medication on memory recall
- This included those medications that do and don’t cross the blood-brain barrier
- Those taking medication that pass the blood-brain barrier had better attention levels during follow up appointments three years after the study
Older people taking certain types of blood pressure-lowering medication had better rates of memory recall, suggesting it could be used to slow memory decline.
Researchers found that treating people over the age of 50 with angiotensin II receptor blockers, such as candesartan and irbesartan, as well as ACE inhibitors such Ramipril and Lisinopril, reduced cognitive impairment by 19 per cent.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a risk factor for memory decline and dementia in older adults, according to University of California, Irvine experts.
It is estimated that around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure and studies show that treating it with certain medications can also improve memory.
Each type of medication acts in a different way to reduce blood pressure, with some crossing the blood-brain barrier and impacting on cognitive function.
Volunteers in the study, involving 12,500 adults ages 50 or older, taking medication that crosses the blood-brain barrier, had better attention levels three years later.
Older people taking certain types of blood pressure-lowering medication had better rates of memory recall, suggesting it could be used to slow memory decline. Stock image
- Older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to 3 years of follow-up
- This is compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier even though they had a higher level of vascular risk
- Adults taking hypertension medications that did not cross the blood-brain barrier had better attention for up to 3 years of follow-up
Angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers and diuretics are different classes of blood pressure-lowering medicines commonly used on patients.
Study author Dr Daniel Nation, an Associate Professor at the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, said: ‘Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition.
‘Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and ACE inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition.’
However, he added that ‘other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.’
He said this is the first to compare the potential impact over time of blood pressure lowering medicines that do and those that do not cross the blood-brain barrier.
The medicines were evaluated for their effects on several elements including attention, language, verbal memory, learning and recall.
Dr Nation said: ‘Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain.
‘Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.’
The research team gathered information from 14 studies involving more than 12,500 adults ages 50 or older in Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan.
They found that older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to three years of follow-up compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier.
Study co-author Dr Jean Ho, said this is the most powerful evidence to date linking ACE-inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory.
Researchers found that people over the age of 50s taking angiotensin II receptor blockers and ACE inhibitors reduced cognitive impairment by 19 per cent. Stock image
‘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.’
Limitations of this analysis are that the authors could not account for differences in racial/ethnic background based on the available studies.
There was also a higher proportion of men versus women in the group who took medications that cross the blood-brain barrier.
This is an important area of future research since previous studies have shown that people from various racial/ethnic backgrounds may respond differently to different blood pressure medications, the team explained.
The findings have been published in the journal Hypertension.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
- A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia