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Some blood pressure meds could contribute to less memory decline in older adults

Certain blood pressure–lowering medications that cross the blood–brain barrier may be linked to less memory decline in older adults, suggests new research published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

Older adults taking renin–angiotensin drugs, which cross the blood–brain barrier, exhibited better memory recall for up to 3 years of follow-up compared with those taking medications that do not cross the blood–brain barrier—even though they had a higher level of vascular risk. On the other hand, the researchers found that study participants taking medications that do not penetrate the blood–brain barrier showed better attention over the same follow-up period, although their lower vascular risk burden may partially explain this result.

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to date linking brain-penetrant ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory,” said study author Jean Ho, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, in a news release. “It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they take medications that cross the blood–brain barrier.”

The study is the first meta-analysis to compare the potential impact over time of blood pressure–lowering medicines that do versus those that do not cross the blood–brain barrier. The research team evaluated the medications for their effects on several cognitive domains, including attention, language, verbal memory, learning, and recall.

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body, but also to the brain,” said study author Daniel Nation, PhD, ​an associate professor of psychological science in the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, in a news release. “Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

Researchers gathered information from 14 studies of nearly 12,900 adults aged 50 years and older. These included studies done in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, and Japan.

Loren Bonner, senior editor

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