Blood pressure meds promote muscle growth in frail elderly, study says

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Seniors fighting muscle weakness could be helped by widely available blood pressure medications, according to new research.

As people age, the blood vessels that supply muscles with the amino acids they need to grow become less responsive and less able to do their jobs, according to researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. In a small study involving 12 healthy older adults, researchers found that the “vasodilator” sodium nitroprusside, a drug used in hospitals to fight high blood pressure, was effective in dilating the blood vessels, increasing the flow of nutrients to the muscle.

"By giving them this vasodilator, we were able to make our 70-year-olds look like 30-year-olds, at least in terms of muscle growth," said lead author Kyle Timmerman. His team cautioned that broader research would be needed to confirm its findings.

This results complement earlier UTMB research, which found that elevated levels of insulin also dilate the blood vessels and promote better muscle growth among the elderly (McKnight's, 9/28/09). The more recent study appears in the online version of the journal Diabetes.

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