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Heart Medication Linked to Reduction in Incidence and Progression of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible decline in cognitive function. In its later stages, it severely impairs the ability to carry out daily functions and will ultimately lead to death. It is a devastating disease for those affected and their families, and as the aging population increases, it will become a major public health issue. There is no known cause, but some risk factors have been identified, such as increasing age, family history, smoking, and history of cardiovascular disease. Age and family history cannot be changed, but there are many steps that can be taken to improve cardiovascular health.

Researchers from Boston wanted to see if a type of medicine called angiotensin receptor blockers , used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, could affect the risk or progression of Alzheimer's disease. The study found that people who took angiotensin receptor blockers were less likely to develop Alzheimer's and had slower rates of progression.

About the Study

The prospective cohort study searched records from the United States Veterans Affairs system from 2002 to 2006. They searched for patients who were 65 years or older and started taking angiotensin receptor blockers, lisinopril, or other cardiovascular drugs after 2002. The researchers found a total of 819,491 participants that met the criteria. The majority of the participants were men.

The medical records were searched for incidence of dementia, Alzheimer's, or the progression of current dementia during the four-year period. The incidence of dementia or Alzheimer's was only recorded for people that had no sign or diagnosis of dementia in 2002. The progression of the disease was measured in those that had a dementia diagnosis in 2002. The rate of progression was measured by the length of time to admission to nursing home or death. The review found that when compared to those that took lisinopril or other cardiovascular drugs, participants that took angiosten receptor blockers had significantly lower rates of:
  • New dementia (in those that had no dementia at the start of the study)
  • Admission to nursing homes and death (in those that had dementia at the start of the study)

How Does This Affect You?

This study design can not be used to establish a cause and effect relationship. Instead, it can be used to propose a link between angiotensin receptor blockers and less dementia. There are other studies that have not found this link. This information may help encourage further research with stronger study design to confirm or deny any connection.

Your doctor will consider these factors and many others when prescribing medicine. This study alone will not likely change your prescription. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding your risk of Alzheimer's.




  • Li NC, Lee A, Whitmer RA, et al. Use of angiotensin receptor blockers and risk of dementia in a predominantly male population: prospective cohort analysis. BMJ . 2010;340:b5465.

Last reviewed 1/22/2010 by Brian P. Randall, MD

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