Certain Blood Pressure Medications Linked to Lower Memory Decline in Older Adults

Hypertension is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.

Memory recall was significantly better in older adults receiving blood pressure-lowering medications known to cross the blood-brain barrier compared to those receiving other types of high blood pressure medication, according to research published in Hypertension. The study noted that hypertension is a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia in older adults, with nearly half of American adults having high blood pressure.

“Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition,” said Daniel A. Nation, PhD, associate professor of psychological science in the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, in a press release. “Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) 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.”

According to the investigators, this is the first meta-analysis comparing the potential impact over time of blood pressure-lowering medications that cross the blood-brain barrier to those that do not. These medicines were evaluated for their effects on attention, language, verbal memory, learning, and recall. The researchers gathered data from 14 studies with a combined total of nearly 12,900 adults 50 years of age and older.

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain,” Nation said in the release. “Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

The study results indicated that older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to 3 years of follow-up compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier even though they had a higher level of vascular risk. However, adults taking hypertension medications that did not cross the blood-brain barrier had better attention for up to 3 years of follow-up.

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and ARBs 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,” said study co-author Jean K. Ho, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, in the release.

REFERENCE

Some blood pressure-lowering meds linked to less memory decline in older adults [news release]. EurekAlert; June 21, 2021. Accessed June 22, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-06/aha-sbp061721.php