Patients taking drugs known as ACE inhibitors, used to treat high blood pressure, showed slower rates of cognitive decline caused by certain types of dementia, according to a study published by BMJ Open.
The researchers analyzed 361 patients, with an average age of 77, who had been diagnosed with either Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or a mixture of both. Of these patients, 85 were already taking ACE inhibitors; the rest were not.
Each of the patient's cognitive decline was assessed using one of two standardized mental state examinations on two separate occasions, six months apart. The researchers also analyzed the impact of ACE inhibitors on the brain power of 30 patients newly prescribed these drugs, during their first six months of treatment.
Compared with those not taking ACE inhibitors, those on these drugs experienced marginally slower rates of cognitive decline - researchers found a small, but significant, difference in patients who undertook the more sensitivities of the two tests. The study also revealed that the brain power actually improved for 30 new prescribed patients during their first six months of treatment.
This authors suggest that this may be because newly prescribed patients stuck to their medication regimen better, or a by-product of better blood pressure control, or improved blood flow to the brain. But it is the first time that there has been any evidence to suggest that blood pressure lowering drugs may not only halt cognitive decline, but may actually improve brain power.