These Blood Pressure Meds Fight Memory Loss

Almost half of Americans are living with high blood pressure and it is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, along with other diseases.

Almost half of Americans are living with high blood pressure and it is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, along with other diseases.

Two types of blood pressure medications are linked to better memory over time, a review of the research reveals.

Both ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers could reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment by almost one-fifth.

Mild cognitive impairment, characterised by problems with memory, language and thinking greater than those expected with age, can be a precursor to dementia.

Dr Daniel A. Nation, study co-author, said:

“Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition.

Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition, while other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.”

The researchers looked at 14 different studies including almost 13,000 people across six countries.

The results showed that the drugs linked to better memory recall crossed the blood-brain barrier.

People in the studies were primarily taking the drugs for high blood pressure.

Almost half of Americans are living with high blood pressure and it is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia, along with other diseases.

Dr Nation said:

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain.

Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

These are the names of common drugs that do cross the blood-brain barrier that are used to treat hypertension:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors): enalapril, lisinopril, ramipril, captopril, benazepril.
  • Angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARBs, sartans): valsartan, candesartan, losartan, irbesartan.

Dr Jean K. Ho, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory.

It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they medications that cross the blood-brain barrier.”

Blood pressure is considered elevated above 120/80 mm/Hg although medication is not normally recommended until the reading is 140/90 mm/Hg.

Between the two readings, people are told to modify their diet and exercise habits.

The study was published in the journal Hypertension (Ho et al., 2021).


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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.