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Key to dementia prevention may rest in common blood pressure drug

January 9, 2013

Maintaining cognitive function is a key component of independent living for seniors, and a new study from the University of Hawaii suggests a common medication may help them do just that. Researchers found that men who took beta blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure, enjoyed a lower dementia risk than those who did not take blood pressure drugs.

The research team looked at more than 770 men, 610 of whom took some form of medication for high blood pressure. Though similar treatments offered benefits in terms of reducing brain shrinkage and damage to brain tissue, the participants who took only beta blockers performed best. Study leaders are hopeful that results could provide a new path to preventing Alzheimer's and dementia.

"With the number of people with Alzheimer's disease expected to grow significantly as our population ages, it is increasingly important to identify factors that could delay or prevent the disease," said study author Dr. Lon White. "These results are exciting, especially since beta blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure."

Although beta blockers show potential for lowering seniors' dementia risk, more research is needed to solidify the potential link. Still, there are other steps that older adults can take to lower their risk of Alzheimer's, many of which fit nicely into a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

Social interaction has proven to be an effective means of staving off cognitive decline, according to the Alzheimer's Association. This is due in large part to the fact that leisure activities combine mental and physical stimulation, both of which are key to healthy aging and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.