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Some blood pressure tablets could slow memory decline

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 6/21/2021 Ryan Morrison For Mailonline
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Older people taking certain types of blood pressure-lowering medication had better rates of memory recall, suggesting it could be used to slow memory decline.    

Researchers found that treating people over the age of 50 with angiotensin II receptor blockers, such as candesartan and irbesartan, as well as ACE inhibitors such Ramipril and Lisinopril, reduced cognitive impairment by 19 per cent. 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a risk factor for memory decline and dementia in older adults, according to University of California, Irvine experts.

It is estimated that around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure and studies show that treating it with certain medications can also improve memory. 

Each type of medication acts in a different way to reduce blood pressure, with some crossing the blood-brain barrier and impacting on cognitive function.

Volunteers in the study, involving 12,500 adults ages 50 or older, taking medication that crosses the blood-brain barrier, had better attention levels three years later.

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Angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers and diuretics are different classes of blood pressure-lowering medicines commonly used on patients.

Study author Dr Daniel Nation, an Associate Professor at the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, said: 'Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition.

'Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and ACE inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition.'

However, he added that 'other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.'

He said this is the first to compare the potential impact over time of blood pressure lowering medicines that do and those that do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

The medicines were evaluated for their effects on several elements including attention, language, verbal memory, learning and recall.

Dr Nation said: 'Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain.

'Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.'

The research team gathered information from 14 studies involving more than 12,500 adults ages 50 or older in Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan.

They found that older adults taking blood pressure-lowering medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to three years of follow-up compared to those taking medicines that do not cross the blood-brain barrier. 

Study co-author Dr Jean Ho, said this is the most powerful evidence to date linking ACE-inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory. 

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'It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they medications that cross the blood-brain barrier.'

Limitations of this analysis are that the authors could not account for differences in racial/ethnic background based on the available studies.

There was also a higher proportion of men versus women in the group who took medications that cross the blood-brain barrier. 

This is an important area of future research since previous studies have shown that people from various racial/ethnic backgrounds may respond differently to different blood pressure medications, the team explained.

 The findings have been published in the journal Hypertension.

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