Common drugs used to lower blood pressure can slow the rate of cognitive decline, which can happen rapidly in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers.
Researchers compiled rates of cognitive decline in 361 patients who had either Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia or a mix of both.
Of the 361 patients, 85 were taking ACE inhibitors, which is a blood pressure lowering medication.
Researchers found those taking the inhibitors experienced marginally slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those not taking the medication.
Patients in the study, which took place between 1999 and 2010, had an average age of 77.
Researchers also assessed the impact of ACE inhibitors on the brain power of 30 patients newly prescribed the drugs. They found that their brain power improved over a six-month period, compared with those already taking them, and those not taking them at all.
One reason for this may be that better blood flow to the brain, produced by better blood pressure control, results in better cognitive functioning.
"We’ve known for some time that high blood pressure increases your risk of developing dementia," said the Alzheimer’s Society. "Any drug which halts cognitive decline is potentially exciting, as it has the ability to radically improve peoples with dementia’s quality of life.
"The more we learn about dementia and how it relates to other conditions like high blood pressure, the more we’re able to explore whether existing drugs such as these can double as dementia treatments."
However, researchers have cautioned that the study is only an observational one and that other research indicates that ACE inhibitors may be harmful in some cases.
They say larger studies are needed to determine if they do actually work as a good drug for staving of dementia across the broad spectrum of patients.
The results of the study were published last week in BMJ Open journal.
Image: A blood pressure measuring device. Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia.