Drugs used to treat high blood pressure may significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers Disease, or slow it’s development in existing sufferers, according to a study which was revealed at the 2008 Chicago conference on Alzheimers Disease.
Alzheimers is a terminal brain disease which was discovered early last century by the German Physician Alois Alzheimer. This devastating illness currently affects over 5 million people in the United States, and costs the national economy nearly $150 billion per year. It is now the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
Alzheimers causes the death of brain cells which leads to loss of memory and intellect, dementia, and eventually death. The progressive nature of Alzheimers causes a distressing deterioration in quality of life, as problems with memory, cognition and behaviour accelerate.
Dementia is defined as a loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life, of which Alzheimers is the primary cause. Another common form of dementia – Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to parts of the brain. When the two types occur together this is known as mixed dementia.
As there is currently no cure for Alzheimers, any news such as that from the conference is to be welcomed, as a potential new weapon in the fight against this devastating condition.
The connection between Alzheimers and High Blood Pressure was highlighted by Professor Clive Ballard of the Alzheimers Society who said that ‘high blood pressure doubles the risk of developing Alzheimers, and also increases the risk of stroke’. It is known that Alzheimers is linked to damaged arteries, and the presence of a type of protein deposit in the brain.
The Chicago conference has revealed the results of a 5 year study conducted by Professor Benjamin Wolozin of Boston University Medical School, which examined the medical history of 6 million people who have high blood pressure, and the benefits of those taking a certain type of heart medication known as an ARB (Angiotensin Receptor Blocker). Angiotensin is a chemical found in the body which constricts blood vessels, and the effect of ARBs is to disrupt the effect of this chemical, which allows the blood vessels to relax and to widen, allowing increased blood flow. The overall effect is to reduce the blood pressure, and hence the risk of Alzheimers.
The results of the study were startling, revealing that patients taking ARBs :-
- were 35 to 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimers than patients on different heart medications
- who were existing Alzheimers sufferers were 45 percent less likely to lapse into a state of delirium or dying prematurely during the period of the study
- who were stroke sufferers enjoyed the greatest benefit