A study reported in the on-line edition of Archives of Neurology found that some blood pressure medications seem to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). Data were collected from 1995 to 1998 on almost 3300 elderly Utah residents. Among those in the study, more than 1500 used blood pressure medications. By 1998, 104 of the participants had developed AD. Researchers found a significant difference in AD risk between those who were taking antihypertensives and those who were not. They noticed the biggest difference among those taking potassiumsparing diuretics, which were associated with a 70% risk reduction. Calcium channel blockers reduced AD risk by up to 50%, whereas other blood pressure medications had little effect. Study coauthor Peter P. Zandi, PhD, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that it is not clear why some antihypertensives reduce AD risk and others do not. He suggested that there may be something special about calcium-channel blockers and potassium blockers besides their effect on blood pressure. Dr. Zandi, however, cautioned people against changing their blood pressure medication based on this study's findings. Further clinical trials are needed to explore these results.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.