Can Blood Pressure Drugs Prevent Alzheimer's?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

If you only read the headlines, and not the news beneath those headlines, you might be inclined to think that a certain class of blood pressure medications (angiotensin receptor blockers) can prevent Alzheimer's disease.

A recent publication in Archives of Neurology has spawned a number of sensational headlines about Alzheimer's prevention.  The study showed that, among nearly 900 subjects who died at old age and had brain autopsies, those who had taken angiotensin receptor blockers had fewer amyloid plaques in their brains.  This was true of patients with Alzheimer's disease, patients with other causes of dementia, and patients with normal cognitive health.

Amyloid plaques in the brain are a hallmark sign of Alzheimer's disease, but it is not yet well understood if the plaques are the cause of the disease, or if they are a protective response by the brain against some other biological process.  For this reason, it would be a great leap to suggest that blood pressure drugs could play a role in treating Alzheimer's disease.  While that might be true, it is equally possible that such drugs could play a role in preventing the body's natural attempt to protect itself from other facets of the disease process.

Every new clue is useful in assembling the big picture and understanding this complex disease.  This study yielded a great finding, an interesting correlation, and the possibility of new insights. But as far as we know, it did not uncover a preventative treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

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