Might high blood-pressure meds reduce risk for Alzheimer’s?

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Might high blood-pressure meds reduce risk for Alzheimer’s?

Study associates brain disease with genetic disposition for high blood pressure
McKenna Princing

A new study suggests that people with a genetic predisposition for high blood pressure have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published Jun 16 in PLOS Medicine.

The researchers used data from the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project, involving 17,008 people with Alzheimer’s and 37,154 people without the disease. Although the researchers searched for associations between Alzheimer’s and several medical conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol, the only significant connection they found was between low Alzheimer’s risk and genes associated with high blood pressure. 

Paul Crane is a UW Medicine general internist whose research specialization involves Alzheimer's disease.
picture of Paul Crane

Because high blood-pressure risk is associated with a greater probability that a person is taking antihypertensive medication, the researchers speculate that this medication may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

“Our results are the opposite of what people might think,” said study co-author Paul Crane, who is a University of Washington associate professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine. “It may be that high blood pressure is protective, or it may be that something that people with high blood pressure are exposed to more often, such as antihypertensive medication, is protecting them from Alzheimer’s disease.”

Relatively little research has explored associations between antihypertensive drugs and the development of Alzheimer’s, Crane said. This study's results suggest it would be a beneficial area to explore.

The research was a collaborative effort of scientists in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Utah, California and Washington in the United States.  Shubhabrata Mukherjee, UW research assistant professor of medicine; Laura Gibbons, UW senior research scientist in medicine; and Eric Larson, UW clinical professor of medicine, also contributed from the UW.