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Study: Certain hypertension drugs may reduce Alzheimer's risk
  by Matthew Dennis, Firstword
According to a study published in the BMJ, hypertension drugs known as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Lead researcher Benjamin Wolozin of the Boston University School of Medicine said that in addition, "for those who already have dementia, use of ARBs might delay deterioration of brain function and keep patients out of nursing homes."
The prospective cohort analysis involved looking at the incidence of dementia in 819 491 participants, using information from the US Veterans health system, from 2002 until 2006. All of the patients had heart disease and were being treated either with ARBs, such as AstraZeneca's Atacand (candesartan), sanofi-aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Avapro (irbesartan), Merck & Co.'s Cozaar (losartan), and Novartis? Diovan (valsartan), AstraZeneca's ACE inhibitor Zestril (lisinopril), or other cardiovascular drugs. Data from the study showed that those patients receiving ARBs were up to 24 percent less likely to develop dementia than patients taking other drugs.
In addition, results suggested that patients already diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease were 50 percent less likely to be admitted to a nursing home and had a 17 percent reduced risk of dying if they were taking ARBs, compared with other cardiovascular drugs. Further, the research found that ARBs had an added effect when combined with ACE inhibitors in patients who had already developed Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
The researchers do not know how the drugs protect the brain, although previous studies have shown that hypertension can increase the chances of developing dementia. ARBs may thus prevent injury to nerve cells caused by blood vessel damage or promote recovery after damage has occurred, the scientists said.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Colleen Maxwell and David Hogan from the University of Calgary, noted that "the public health implications of finding an effective way of preventing dementia are immense," but they cautioned that "further work is needed to verify the usefulness of antihypertensives in general," and in particular ARBs.
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