Common blood pressure drugs cut the risk of Alzheimer's dementia by 50%, researchers find

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Seniors who take certain blood pressure medications might be at a dramatically reduced risk for developing dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to findings published in the journal Neurology.

A team led by a researcher from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed results of the Gingko Evaluation of Memory Study. This was intended to see whether the herb gingko biloba reduces the risk of Alzheimer's. The herb does not, according to the study, but the researchers took another approach, looking at the blood pressure drugs that some of the 3,000 participants were taking.

People older than 75 who had normal cognition and took diuretics, angiotensin-1 receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors demonstrated a 50% reduced risk of Alzheimer's dementia, the researchers found. Among those with mild cognitive impairment, diuretic use was associated with a 50% reduced risk.

Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers did not have this effect, according to the researchers.

Further work is needed to determine why these medications have this apparent protective benefit, stated author Sevil Yasar, M.D., Ph.D. She said this research "could lead to identification of new pharmacologic targets for preventive interventions to slow cognitive decline and possibly delay progression of [Alzheimer's disease and] dementia."

Other recent research identified an orally administered compound that appears to stop the neurodegeneration caused by Alzheimer's. Scientists in the United Kingdom hailed this finding as a major step toward a pill for treating the disease. 

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