Remembering to take your blood pressure medication will do more than keep your numbers down. According to a new study, common BP prescriptions can also help ward off dementia and cognitive decline.
Research published by the American Heart Association cites how high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) increases the risk of declining brain health as we age. Daniel A. Nation, PhD, lead study author from the University of California, Davis, explained in a press release, “Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body, but also to the brain.”
Previous research has looked into the possible brain health benefits of common BP prescriptions, including ACE-inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, and diuretics — but results have been mixed until now.
In this case, scientists reviewed 14 studies with data from nearly 12,9000 adults over 50. They found that those taking medicines like ACE inhibitors and ARBs showed higher memory function in the years following observation. Researchers claim this is because these types of medications cross what’s known as the blood-brain barrier. This basically means they promote blood flow to the central nervous system. Calcium channel blockers and diuretics don’t have that same effect.
“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory,” study co-author Jean K. Ho, PhD, said. “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.”
Popular ACE-inhibitors include Benazepril, Captopril, and Enalapril. Edarbi, Avapro, and Atacand are a few of the most frequently prescribed ARBs. If you’re already on one of these medicines, you’re likely getting the brain-boosting perks! If not, you can talk with your doctor to see if they’re a right fit for you.
More research needs to be done on the subject, but if nothing else, these findings prove just how important it is to keep our blood pressure numbers from soaring. Our hearts and minds will thank us!