If your elderly parent has dementia, you know how difficult the condition can make life for your parent—and for you as the caregiver. So many of us are facing, or have faced, the reality of dementia when it robs loved ones of “themselves.”
We all “wish” for better treatments and a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re confused about the differences between the two terms, know that dementia is a set of symptoms and is not Alzheimer’s disease itself. I watched with horror as Alzheimer’s disease took my mother—she had high blood pressure and was a smoker, which may have resulted in her vascular dementia.
As the Mayo Clinic reminds us, “Although Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-70 percent of cases of dementia, other disorders that cause dementia include: vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and frontotemporal dementia.”
Now science is investigating whether blood pressure medication might prevent dementia.
When the pressure’s off
A new study published this week in the journal BMJ Open had two objectives. Researchers wanted to examine:
- the effect of a category of blood pressure drug—centrally-acting ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or CACE-Is) on the rate of cognitive decline in patients with dementia.
- the acute effect of CACE-Is on cognition, during the first six months of treatment.
ACE inhibitors include these. Maybe you’re already taking one:
- Benazepril (Lotensin)
- Enalapril (Vasotec/Renitec)
- Lisinopril (Lisodur/Lopril/Novatec/Prinivil/Zestril)
- Perindopril (Coversyl/Aceon)
- Quinapril (Accupril)
- Ramipril (Altace/Tritace/Ramace/Ramiwin)
- Reduced rates of cognitive decline were seen in an unselected outpatient sample that was prescribed CACE-Is, irrespective of the blood pressure readings or diagnosis of hypertension.
- The rate of decline was reduced in patients in the six months after starting CACE-Is, compared to those already established on them.
Should you take an ACE inhibitor?
I’ve been taking Lisinopril for almost two decades. When I read this latest news, as well as Elizabeth Agnvall’s blog for AARP about this same study, I couldn’t help but wonder—right along with the study’s lead author—whether I might have been protecting my brain all these years. It would be good ammunition against two fairly severe horseback-riding falls.
We already know that getting a handle on high blood pressure may reduce dementia and Alzheimer’s risk. You can learn more about blood pressure basics in my current story in AARP Bulletin here. As always, check your blood pressure, watch your diet, and please try to include physical activity in your day—every day. If you’ve been prescribed blood pressure medications, they only work if you take them. Ask your doctor if an ACE inhibitor might be right for you, as you continue your own “Be Kind to Your Brain Campaign.”