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MedSOS.3.24.12An estimated 33 percent of American adults suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure). Because many people don't realize they have high blood pressure, it has been labeled the "silent killer".  Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to strokes, is a significant contributor to heart attacks, and can cause major damage to the kidneys, brain and eyes. Now, research has linked high blood pressure to an increased risk of dementia.

With this in mind, taking medications to manage high blood pressure may also protect you from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. A two-decade long investigation from the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study, discovered that the brains of aging Japanese-American men who took drugs to lower their blood pressure had distinctly healthier brains than those who did not.

Specifically, those taking medications known as beta-blockers (medications that lower blood pressure by blocking hormonal and nervous system signals to the blood vessels and heart), were far less likely to exhibit signs of brain damage, which included:

  • Reduced amyloid plaque build up - an indicator of Alzheimer's disease
  • Diminished brain atrophy - a common contributor to dementia
  • Reduced indications of microinfarcts - also known as "mini strokes", which can, over time, lead to dementia

With the number of people with Alzheimer's disease expected to grow as our population ages, the news of dementia prevention is exciting. Researchers remain optimistic, but additional studies must be conducted to determine if the benefits extend beyond the limited demographics of the Honolulu study.

 

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