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Blood pressure drug boosts brain power

Friday July 26th, 2013

A class of drug used to lower blood pressure has been shown for the first time not only to slow the rate of mental decline but also to boost brain power.

The study supports the growing body of evidence that ACE inhibitors and other blood pressure lowering agents could be use to manage dementia.

Writing in BMJ Open, the authors compared between 1999 and 2010 the rates of cognitive decline in 361 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or both. Eighty five of the patients were already taking ACE inhibitors, while the remaining 276 were not.

The impact of ACE inhibitors on the brain power of 30 patients who were newly prescribed the drug was assessed during the first six months of treatment.

The cognitive decline of each patient was assessed using either the Standardised Mini Mental State Examination (SMMSE) or the Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment (Qmci) screen on two separate occasions, six months apart.

It was found that those who took ACE inhibitors had slightly slower rates of cognitive decline but the difference among those assessed by Qmci was small, but significant.

The authors, led by Professor William Molloy, of St Finbarrs’ Hospital, Cork City, Ireland, also found that people who were newly prescribed ACR inhibitors experienced improved brain power over the six month period compared to those who were already taking them and those not taking them at all.

They suggest one reason for this is that this group of patients may have stuck to their medication regimen better. It might also be a by-product of better blood pressure control or improved blood flow to the brain.

“Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits,” they add.

The authors called for larger studies to test further ACE inhibitors following recent suggestions that the drug may be harmful in some cases.

Gao Y et al. Effects of centrally acting ACE inhibitors on the rate of cognitive decline in dementia. BMJ Open 26 July 2013; doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002881. [abstract]

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe | Heart Health | Pharmaceuticals

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