Combining statins and antihypertensives may reduce a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study of nearly 700,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Investigators followed individuals who had used both an antihypertensive and a statin for at least the two previous years and who had no prior dementia diagnoses. Compared with a cohort who took other combinations of drugs, participants were less likely to develop dementia when they took cholesterol-lowering pravastatin or rosuvastatin combined with either ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers for high blood pressure, the researchers reported.

Dementia risk was especially low for people using pravastatin and rosuvastatin in combination with ARBs, wrote lead author Julie Zissimopoulos, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California. Participants who took the ARB – pravastatin combination had 21% lower odds of a dementia diagnosis, for example.

The findings suggest that treatments already in use for blood pressure and cholesterol control could also help people at risk for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the researchers said.

“We don’t currently have drugs that are proven to treat dementia, but even small delays in onset can dramatically reduce the burden on patients, caregivers and the health system as a whole,” Zissimopoulos concluded.

The study was published in PLOS One.