Brain Heart health Sunnybrook Magazine - Spring 2018

Blood pressure medication may help protect brain

Monitoring Blood Pressure

For 80 per cent of Canadians with hypertension, medication is a major part of the treatment to lower blood pressure. But one type of anti-hypertensive medication – known as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) – may be giving users the added benefit of protecting the brain against degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Blood pressure medications may have different effects on cognition and the brain structures that control it,” says Dr. Sandra Black, an internationally renowned neurologist at Sunnybrook.

“We suspect they impact brain energy metabolism differently and how the brain processes amyloid, the toxic protein that builds up in the brain to form amyloid plaques – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”

A recent study authored by Dr. Black and her colleagues showed that people without Alzheimer’s who were treated for hypertension with ARBs had significantly larger overall brain volumes, less shrinkage in the hippocampus (the brain region responsible for memory) and better cognitive performance than those treated with other high blood pressure medications.

Which medication your doctor prescribes depends on the severity of your hypertension, its causes and other health conditions. But with added brain protection, the research suggests that ARBs may be a more desirable option where appropriate.