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Blood Pressure Drugs May Lower Alzheimer's Risk

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Are Beta-Blockers Really Better? continued...

“Treating blood pressure, in general, is quite likely to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, and specific treatments may be preferential,” he says.

Exactly how high blood pressure increases the chances of dementia, and how treating it reduces this risk, is not fully understood, Isaacson says. It may reduce the risk of mini-strokes that can lead to dementia or help brains maintain their volume. “We know that treating high blood pressure reduces your risk for stroke and heart attack, and now the icing on the cake may be that it can also delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline.”

Marc L. Gordon, MD, says more research is needed on what role blood pressure medication including beta-blockers can have on dementia risk. He is chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., and an Alzheimer’s researcher at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y. 

“The new study is not an argument for putting beta-blockers in the water supply,” he says.

For starters, the findings may be specific to men of this genetic background. “It underscores evidence in different populations that not only does midlife hypertension increase risk of late-in-life dementia, but a number of different classes of drugs may have an effect on reducing those risks.”

The study should serve as a reminder to know your blood pressure numbers, he says. 

“We know that blood pressure is a risk factor for a number of things including heart attack and stroke, but also dementia,” he says. “It is a good idea to get on appropriate treatment if you have high blood pressure, and this may [ease] your risk for all causes of dementia, too.”

These findings will be presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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