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Jun 18, 2019
6:58PM

High blood pressure drug has potential to slow down Alzheimer's disease: Study

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A high blood pressure drug has the potential to slow down Alzheimer's disease by improving the flow of blood to parts of the brain linked to memory, a study suggests.

Researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands found the drug nilvadipine increased blood flow to the brain's memory and learning centre among people with Alzheimer's without affecting other parts of the brain. Nilvadipine is a calcium channel blocker used to treat high BP.

The findings were published in the journal Hypertension. They indicate that the known decrease in cerebral blood flow in patients with Alzheimer's can be reversed in some regions. However,  the researchers questioned whether the observed increase in cerebral blood flow translates to clinical benefits.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. The risk for the disease increases with age and the causes are largely unknown. Previous research has shown that blood flow to the brain declines in early Alzheimer's disease. In the study, researchers measured blood flow to specific regions of the brain using a unique magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique.

Results showed that blood flow to the hippocampus - the brain's memory and learning centre - increased. Blood flow to other regions of the brain was unchanged. Researchers note that the study's sample sizes were too small and follow-up time too short to reliably study the effects of this cerebral blood flow increase on structural brain measures and cognitive measures.

Study participants were screened between 2013 and 2015 as part of a larger research project. In that larger project, effects on cerebral blood flow were not measured. Overall, no clinical benefit was noted with use of nilvadipine. However, a subgroup of patients with only mild symptoms of disease did show benefit of a slower decline in memory.


Previous studies have hinted that high BP treatment could reduce the risk of developing dementia. The researchers think that beneficial effects on brain blood flow could explain part of this effect.

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