Hypertension treatment may slow down Alzheimer’s progression

alzheimers disease

Studies have found that nilvadipine, which is the common drug that doctors use to treat hypertension, may help increase blood flow to the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease.


Alzheimer’s disease remains the most common form of dementia. This disease is a progressive disorder that causes degeneration and, ultimately the death of brain cells.


People with dementia suffer cognitive decline and have problems performing everyday tasks and making a judgement.


Dementia affects many people worldwide. According to Alzheimer’s disease International, in 2017, the number of people with dementia was close to 50 million. The organization says, “This number could reach 75 million people by 2030 and will almost double every 20 years.”


In the US, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading causes of death.


For several years, researchers have been looking for ways to slow the progression of dementia. Thankfully, they have found that the hypertension drug called nilvadipine may help people with Alzheimer’s disease increase cerebral blood flow. The result can be found in the journal Hypertension.


Can nilvadipine affect cerebral blood flow?

People often use nilvadipine to treat hypertension because it is a calcium channel blocker that leads to vascular relaxation and lower blood pressure. The latest study involved 44 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The objective was to find out whether nilvadipine could help slow the disorder’s progression.


Dr Jurgen Claassen, Ph.D., associate professor at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands and the lead author says, “Although there is no medical treatment without risk, getting treatment for high blood pressure could be vital to maintaining brain health in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”


The researchers gave nilvadipine or placebo randomly to the participants and asked them to continue treatment for six months. At the beginning of the study and after 6 months, researchers measured the blood flow to specific area of the participant’s brain, using a unique MRI method.


The results of the findings showed that a 20 percent increase in blood flow to the hippocampus, the brain’s part linked to learning and memory, among the group who took nilvadipine compare to those who took placebo. The treatment didn’t have any effect on the blood flow to other parts of the brain.


Dr Claassen adds, “This high blood pressure treatment holds promise as it doesn’t appear to reduce blood flow to the brain, which could cause more damage than benefit.”


This research has paved the way for future research

In previous studies carried out by researchers between 2013 and 2015 in different parts of Europe, a team of researchers compared the nilvadipine and placebo effects among over than 500 people with mild o moderate Alzheimer’s disease.


The team didn’t record the effects on cerebral blood flow, so no benefits of nilvadipine as a treatment was recorded. However, a subgroup of participants with mild symptoms was found to experience a slower decline in memory.


There were only a few participants in the latest study, and the follow-up time was too short to study the impact of nilvadipine on blood flow to the brain’s area affected by Alzheimer’s disease properly. The participants were also of similar ethnicity and race.


The bottom line

Despite the small number of the participants, the latest study used an MRI technique that only a few researchers have used in the past to analyze the hypertension treatment’s effects on cerebral blood flow.


The researchers believe that using this advanced MRI technique in a bigger and more extensive study could be a great next step in research.

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