A popular class of blood pressure drugs, called ACE inhibitors, has been shown to combat dementia.
New research, published online in the British Medical Journal BMJ Open, suggests the drugs may even boost brainpower, in addition to slowing the rate of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that rob suffers of their memories and ability to think clearly.
"This [study] supports the growing body of evidence for the use of ACE inhibitors and other [blood pressure lowering] agents in the management of dementia," write the researchers. "Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits."
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For the study, medical investigators from the Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation at the University College Cork in Ireland tracked the rates of cognitive decline in 361 Alzheimer's and dementia patients. Eighty-five of the patients — most in their 70s — were already taking ACE inhibitors when the study began. An additional 30 patients were prescribed ACE inhibitors during the first six months of treatment.
To gauge the impact of ACE inhibitors, the researchers tracked the cognitive decline of each patient using standardized tests between 1999 and 2010. The results showed those taking ACE inhibitors experienced slower rates of cognitive decline over the course of the study.
What’s more, the drugs were associated with a small, but significant increase in mental acuity.
The findings suggest ACE inhibitors may improve blood flow to the brain.
They added, however, that ACE inhibitors can be harmful in some cases, so only certain dementia patients may benefit from the drugs.
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