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Posted: August 19, 2008

Popular Blood Pressure Drugs Successfully Fight Alzheimer's

The use of a popular class of blood pressure medications called angiotensin receptor blockers significantly lowers the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and slows the progression in those who have it, doctors say.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine told a recent international Alzheimer’s meeting that their analysis of US government data found that patients taking angiotensin receptor blockers – also known as ARBs -- were 35% to 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia than those who didn't take the drugs.

In addition, people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia who took ARBs were up to 45% less likely to experience delirium, be admitted to nursing homes, or die, according to the Boston team. Also, those who suffered strokes before or while being diagnosed with dementia appeared to especially benefit from taking ARBs.

The findings, which were presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Chicago, indicate that ARBs might protect against Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the BU researchers said.

"For those who already have dementia, use of ARBs might delay deterioration of brain function and help keep patients out of nursing homes," said Dr. Benjamin Wolozin, a professor of pharmacology at Boston University.

"The study is particularly interesting, because we compared the effects of ARBs to other medications used for treating blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. This suggests that ARBs are more effective than other blood pressure and cardiovascular medications for preventing Alzheimer's disease or dementia," Wolozin added.

Wolozin and colleagues said it is not clear why ARBs may be beneficial, but they believe it may be because they guard against nerve cell injury in damaged blood vessels or help promote nerve recovery after blood vessels are damaged.

The researchers cited a widely-held belief that damage to blood vessels can reduce brain capacity and promote dementia, and they said that reducing this kind of damage may prevent or slow the progression of dementia.

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