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Some Blood Pressure Drugs May Stave Off Dementia
Date:1/12/2010

Medications' role against angiotensin appears to be key, study finds,,

TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Blood pressure drugs that block the protein angiotensin appear to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, a new study finds.

"We think it [angiotensin] is one of the most important factors determining healthy blood vessels and also acts in the brain to help neurons to be a little more resilient," said Dr. Benjamin Wolozin, a professor of pharmacology and neurology at Boston University and senior author of a report on the findings, published online Jan. 13 in BMJ.

That report describes a study of more than 819,000 U.S. veterans, nearly all men, that found that those taking blood pressure medications that block cell receptors for angiotensin had a lower risk for dementia than those taking other cardiovascular medicines.

A similar but smaller protective effect was found for a related drug, lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), which blocks production of the active form of angiotensin.

Angiotensin causes blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure. It is produced when enzymes act to convert a precursor molecule, angiotensinogen. Lisinopril is a member of a drug family called ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors. Other examples of ACE inhibitors are benazepril (Lotensin), enalapril (Vasotec) and ramipril (Altace).

Reducing angiotensin production by giving ACE inhibitors can lower blood pressure. The same effect can be achieved with drugs that block the cell receptors through which angiotensin acts. Called angiotensin receptor blockers, these drugs have a greater protective effect against dementia than ACE inhibitors, the study found. Such drugs include candesartan (Atacand), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar) and valsartan (Diovan).

In the study, men taking an angiotensin receptor blocker had a 24 percent lower incidence of
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