If you have blood pressure, migraines, or glaucoma your doctor probably prescribed beta blockers. What you didn’t know is that this medication you’re taking to lower your blood pressure can also reduce your risk of developing dementia.
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In fact, a recent study from the American Academy of Neurology has found that beta blockers, which are meant to cause the heart to beat slower and less forcefully to reduce blood pressure, also open up blood vessels to increase blood flow and thus protect cognitive function.
The study performed autopsies on 774 Japanese-American men between the ages of 71 and 93. In the group 610 who had hypertension and were taking blood pressure medication, and a remaining 164 participants who weren’t prescribed beta blockers at all. The autopsies showed that those who took beta blockers had significantly fewer brain abnormalities—including microinfarcts, death of brain cells, Alzheimer’s brain lesions, and brain atrophy—than those who took no beta blocker medication.
“We know that there are connections between brain health and heart health,” says Dr. Heather Snyder, neuroscientist and director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association. “So if you have heart problems, you should have them diagnosed and treated because there may be benefits for later life brain health.
Even though the research linking beta blockers and reduced Alzheimer’s risk is still in the early stages, study author Dr. Lon White of the Pacific Health Research and Education Institute in Honolulu says that “…it is increasingly important to identify factors that could delay or prevent the disease…these results are exciting, especially since beta blockers are a common treatment for high blood pressure.”