Angiotensin receptor blockers, drugs that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, according to research published on bmj.com today.
The study also concludes that angiotensin receptor blockers seem to offer greater protection against Alzheimer's disease and dementia than other high blood pressure and heart disease medication.
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, threatens an increasing number of people as they get older. It also has major economic implications as individuals who suffer from either disease can spend long periods of time in nursing homes.
While dementia and Alzheimer's disease are complex diseases, there is increasing evidence of three main risk factors: age, genetics and heart disease. In particular, mid-life diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure seem to be linked to a higher chance of developing dementia.
This is the first large scale study to investigate whether angiotensin receptor blockers reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease, say the researchers.
One group of research subjects were using angiotensin receptor blockers, another the blood pressure lowering drug lisinopril and the third, other comparative drugs used for heart disease.
The results show that the group on angiotensin receptor blockers were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia. They also demonstrate that angiotensin receptor blockers have an additive effect when used in combination with another type of high blood pressure drug (ACE inhibitors) - individuals with existing Alzheimer's disease or dementia who took both medicines were less likely to die early or be admitted to nursing homes.
Study author Professor Benjamin Wolozin from Boston University School of Medicine concludes that the research is important because it is the "first to compare both risk of dementia and progression of dementia in users of angiotensin receptor blockers compared with users of a drug from the same class (lisinopril) or users of other drugs prescribed for cardiovascular disease."