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Will Blood Pressure Medicines Prevent Alzheimer Disease?

In a new meta-analysis, the investigators found that people taking blood pressure medicines are slightly less likely to develop dementia.
Will Blood Pressure Medicines Prevent Alzheimer Disease?
Elderly woman pensioner measures the blood pressure itself.

Doctors have been debating the link between high blood pressure (hypertension) and cognitive decline for decades (BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, Nov. 3, 2016). They have been equally divided and uncertain on how to proceed. On the one hand, lowering blood pressure can reduce the chance of strokes or even microvascular clots causing damage to brain tissue. On the other hand, if blood pressure drops too low, the brain may not get enough oxygen to function well. Do people taking blood pressure medicines have a lower chance of developing Alzheimer disease?

Blood Pressure Medicines for Better Brain Function:

Despite an association between hypertension and dementia, experts have been less clear that lowering blood pressure with medications will reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease. A meta-analysis involving 12 studies and over 90,000 participants has just addressed that question (JAMA, May 19, 2020).

The researchers found that over four years, people who took blood pressure medicines were slightly less likely to be diagnosed with dementia or cognitive impairment. To be precise, 7.0% of the subjects taking blood pressure drugs developed measurable cognitive deficits. The proportion developing dementia among those on placebo was 7.5%. The investigators found no significant difference in cognitive test scores.

What Is Good for the Brain?

In general, experts believe that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Consequently, they advise people to maintain a weight, eat a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and make exercise an important part of the weekly regimen. The new research suggests that we should also do our best to avoid hypertension, even if it means we must take blood pressure medicines. 

Learn More:

You can learn more about controlling your blood pressure with medications or natural approaches in our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions. Your may also want to listen to Show 1180: How to Eat to Nourish Your Brain. Clams and mussels are great sources of zinc, for example. This mineral is not only helpful for the brain. In addition, it is essential for strong immune function. That is especially important in this time of COVID-19.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Tadic M et al, "Hypertension and cognitive dysfunction in elderly: Blood pressure management for this global burden." BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, Nov. 3, 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s12872-016-0386-0
  • Hughes D et al, "Association of blood pressure lowering with incident dementia or cognitive impairment: A systematic review and meta-analysis." JAMA, May 19, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4249
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