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Posted: February 12, 2008

High Blood Pressure Pill Cuts Risk of Parkinson's Disease

People taking a widely-used group of drugs known as calcium channel blockers to treat high blood pressure also appear to be cutting their risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the online edition of the medical journal Neurology.
 
The study involved 7,374 men and women over age 40. Half of the group had Parkinson’s disease; the other half did not have Parkinson’s. Among both groups, nearly half used high blood pressure medications, such as calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, AT II antagonists and beta blockers.
 
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The study found that people who were currently long-term users of calcium channel blockers to treat high blood pressure lowered their risk of Parkinson’s disease by 23% compared to people who didn’t take the drugs. There was no such effect among people taking ACE inhibitors, AT II antagonists and beta blockers.
 
“Long-term use of calcium channel blockers was associated with a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease while no such association was seen for other high blood pressure medicines,” said study author Christoph R. Meier, PhD, MSc, of University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.
 
Meier says more research is needed to determine why calcium channel blockers appear to protect against Parkinson’s, including whether this is anything more than a causal association, and why other high blood pressure medications did not offer a reduced risk.
 
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical known as dopamine, which allows smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement.  When approximately 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear, according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation. While the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15% of those diagnosed are under 50. More than 1.5 million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s, for which there is no cure.

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