Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. It slowly robs people of their memories, progressively infiltrates other cognitive faculties and functions, and is eventually fatal.
Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease contributes the majority of cases, is the second leading cause of death in Australia. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and available therapies only help to reduce disease symptoms, not the underlying mechanisms or causes.
New findings published recently in the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia (TRCI), by a collaboration of researchers from NeuRA, UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) and the University of Sydney shed light on this critical issue.
The research team led by Professor Glenda Halliday, Scientia Professor Perminder Sachdev and PhD student Andrew Affleck, analysed the brains of people who had and had not taken antihypertensive medications during life. They showed that antihypertensive medication use (i.e. medications that lower blood pressure) associated with less extensive spread of AD pathology through the brain.
Due to the variety of antihypertensives used, the likely implication of their results points to the overarching benefit that blood pressure control and management may have in reducing the risk and progression of dementia later on in life
Neuropathological studies of drug effects are rare, and only one such study has been published previously. The findings further support the hypothesis that hypertension, in addition to its role in stroke and small vessel disease ibn the brain, may also worsen Alzheimer pathology, said Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of CHeBA.
“Our study suggests that antihypertensive medications may have direct effects on reducing age-related brain pathologies,” said Mr Affleck.
“This reinforces the idea that what is good for your heart, is also good for your brain,” he said.
“Australia’s population is an ageing one, so it is critical that we make significant inroads into finding ways to treat, or better yet one day cure, this disease,” he said.
The research team aims to extend on these findings by investigating the possible mechanisms by which antihypertensive medication use and/or reduced blood pressure leads to less severe Alzheimer’s progression through the brain.