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Blood pressure medication may lower Alzheimer's risk

A study showed that high blood pressure may help prevent Alzheimer's, but researchers give drugs used for the condition the credit.
By Stephen Feller   |   June 26, 2015 at 11:10 AM

PROVO, Utah, June 26 (UPI) -- Researchers believe that anti-hypertensive drugs used to treat high blood pressure may be lowering patients' risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, based on a large study of genetic risk factors for the disease.

The purpose of the study was to discover whether risk factors of Alzheimer's, such as BMI, insulin resistance, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, were having a causal effect on the disease's development in patients.

"It may be that high blood pressure is protective, or it may be that something that people with high blood pressure are exposed to more often, such as antihypertensive medication, is protecting them from Alzheimer's disease," said Paul Crane, a University of Washington associate professor of internal medicine, in a press release.

Researchers analyzed genetic data from 17,008 individuals with Alzheimer's and 37,154 people without the disease on a supercomputer at Brigham Young University using Mendelian randomization, which uses subjects' genetics as a proxy for a randomized clinical trial.

The results showed only a relationship of some sort between high blood pressure and lower risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers note it is likely not the condition holding off the development of the disease, but suspect drugs used for treatment are the reason, suggesting future studies focus on the effects of anti-hypertensive drugs on Alzheimer's development.

"It's likely that this protective effect is coming from antihypertensive drugs," said John Kauwe, associate professor of biology at BYU. "These drugs are already FDA approved. We need to take a serious look at them for Alzheimer's prevention."

Anti-hypertensive medications are not the first drugs suspected to lower the risk of Alzheimer's, as researchers reported earlier this month that drugs used with transplant patients to block immune system rejection of new organs may also help prevent the disease.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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