Beta blockers could reduce risk of Alzheimer's, study indicates
Men taking beta blockers to treat high blood pressure may also be benefiting from an unintended side effect: a reduced chance of brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The Honolulu-Asia Aging Study — which will be discussed in March at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in San Diego — involved 774 elderly Japanese-American men whose brains were examined after death. Researchers focused on 610 study participants who had high blood pressure when they died, determining that men whose hypertension had been treated with beta blockers showed fewer brain lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease than the men who had not been treated at all for their high blood pressure.
Study participants who had taken beta blockers along with other blood pressure medication displayed fewer brain abnormalities than men whose hypertension went untreated, but they showed more abnormalities than those who took only beta blockers.
In addition to having fewer Alzheimer's-related lesions, the men who took beta blockers had fewer lesions related to unrecognized strokes.
“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,” said study author Lon White, M.D., of the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, in a news release Monday. “These results are exciting, especially since beta blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure.”