This site is intended for health professionals only

Blood pressure drugs slow dementia progress

Some blood pressure drugs appear to slow the rate of cognitive decline typical in dementia, recent research has shown. 

ACE inhibitors could even “boost brain power” according to the research published in online journal BMJ Open. 

Researchers from University College York compared the rates of cognitive decline in 361 patients who had wither been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia or a mix of both. 

Eighty-five patients were already taking ACE inhibitors, the rest were not.  Over ten years, the cognitive decline of each patient was assessed either using the Standardised Mini Mental State Examination (SMMSE) or the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment (Qmci) screen on two separate occasions, six months apart.

Compared with those not taking ACE inhibitors, those on these drugs experienced marginally slower rates of cognitive decline.

And the brain power of those patients newly prescribed ACE inhibitors actually improved over the six month period, compared with those already taking them, and those not taking them at all.

The authors said: “This [study] supports the growing body of evidence for the use of ACE inhibitors and other [blood pressure lowering] agents in the management of dementia.” 

“Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits.” 

The authors suggested that sticking to a new regime or improved blood flow to the brain could be the reason for the slowed decline. 

However, the researchers have warned that using ACE inhibitors to treat dementia is not a one size fits all approach. Larger studies are needed to confirm the findings. 

A full copy of the research is available on the BMJ Open website.