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Some High Blood Pressure Drugs may Help Reduce Dementia Risk

Some high blood pressure medicines may help protect older adults from declines in memory and other cognitive function, according to new research.

The drugs that researchers believe are protective are part of a class known as ACE inhibitors specifically those types that reach the brain and may help reduce the inflammation that might contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

"For older adults who are going to take an ACE inhibitor drug for blood pressure control, it makes sense for their doctors to prescribe one that goes into the brain," said Kaycee Sink, M.D., M.A.S., lead researcher and an assistant professor of internal medicine gerontology.

Some ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are known as centrally acting because they can cross the blood brain barrier, a specialized system of tiny blood vessels that protects the brain from harmful substances in the blood stream. Centrally acting drugs include captropril (Capoten), fosinopril (Monopril), lisinopril (Prinivil or Zestri), perindopril (Aceon), ramipril (Altace) and trandolapril (Mavik).

The study found a link between taking centrally active ACE inhibitors and lower rates of mental decline as measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State Exam, a test that evaluates memory, language, abstract reasoning and other cognitive functions. For each year that participants were exposed to ACE inhibitors that cross the blood brain barrier, the decline in test results was 50 percent lower than the decline in people taking other kinds of high blood pressure pills.

The researchers also found that non-centrally active ACE inhibitors were associated with a trend towards an increased risk of dementia. However, the results were not statistically significant, which means that they could have occurred by chance. Dementia was diagnosed by a panel of physicians after reviewing results of magnetic resonance imaging and other tests.

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