A new study has found that taking beta blockers may reduce a person’s risk of dementia, though experts warn it is currently too early to recommend beta blockers for this purpose.
The study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in March, found that men taking beta blockers were less likely to have brain changes suggestive of dementia.
Blood carries essential oxygen and nourishment to the brain and without it brain cells can die. Having high blood pressure may damage the small vessels that supply the brain with blood.
Vascular dementia, which is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, can occur if blood flow to the brain is reduced.
Carried out by the University of Hawaii, this recent study on 774 Japanese-American men found that those who had taken beta-blockers as the only form of medication for their blood pressure had fewer abnormalities in the brain than those who had not been treated for hypertension or had received other blood pressure medication.
Those on beta blockers and other medications also had fewer brain abnormalities, but not as many as those solely on beta blockers. In the study, 610 of the men had high blood pressure or were being treated for high blood pressure.
The conclusion of the study was that all types of blood pressure medication were better than no treatment in regards to signs of dementia in the brain, such as brain shrinkage and areas of brain tissue damaged by short blood supply. The results were noted at autopsy after death.
Study author Dr Lon White told the BBC; "With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease expected to grow significantly as our population ages, it is increasingly important to identify factors that could delay or prevent the disease.
"These results are exciting, especially since beta-blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure."
The findings are considered preliminary but positive with more, larger studies needed.
Alzheimer’s Research UK head of research Dr Simon Ridley commented to the BBC; "This study suggests a link between the use of beta-blockers and fewer signs of dementia, but as the results of this study have yet to be published in full, it’s not clear what caused this link. It’s important to note that this study only looked at Japanese-American men, and these results may not be applicable to the wider population."