- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Medications that lower blood pressure, particularly those classified as diuretics, appear to reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

“By far, the greatest effect was seen with potassium-sparing diuretics, which were associated with more than a 70 percent reduction in risk for [Alzheimer’s disease],” said the authors of the report, published in Monday’s issue of Archives of Neurology.

Diuretics are anti-hypertensive drugs that cause the kidneys to excrete water and salt. Two other types of blood pressure medicines — beta blockers and dihydropyridine-type calcium channel blockers — had a “slightly protective effect against [Alzheimer’s disease],” the researchers said.

The study was conducted by Ara S. Khachaturian of Khachaturian and Associates in Potomac, and researchers with the Cache County Memory Study Group. The latter is an ongoing investigation into dementia among the elderly population in Cache County, Utah.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 70 percent of all cases of dementia in the United States. About half of all people 85 and older develop Alzheimer’s. On average, a person survives eight to 10 years with Alzheimer’s and eventually requires complete care.

In this study, researchers investigated the relationship between various anti-hypertensive drugs and Alzheimer’s risk in 3,297 Utah residents ages 65 and older.

Between 1996 and 1997, elderly participants in the Cache County Memory Study Group were interviewed and screened for dementia. They also were asked to give a detailed inventory of all the medications they were taking, both prescription drugs and over-the-counter therapies.

Those who had Alzheimer’s were not included in the study. But all others were given follow-up interviews and medical assessments three years later.

Of the study participants, 1,507 used blood pressure medications, and 1,790 did not. A total of 104 cases of Alzheimer’s developed among participants while the study was under way.

An analysis showed that seniors who used anti-hypertensive medicines at the start of the study were significantly less likely to get Alzheimer’s.

“The findings suggest that the protective effect of these anti-hypertensive medications may be independent of their ability to control blood pressure,” the authors concluded.

They said it is not clear why potassium-sparing diuretics had the strongest effect in reducing Alzheimer’s risk. But they suggested the increased blood potassium levels associated with these drugs may be a factor.

“As yet unpublished findings … suggest that increased potassium levels may be associated with reduced risk of dementia,” the authors wrote.

But because their findings are new, the authors said they “require confirmation in further study.”

They said their results should prompt more research into the “possible neuroprotective effects” of diuretics, especially potassium-sparing diuretics.

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