Blood Pressure Medicine & Better Memory Recall

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
August 19, 2021
blood pressure doctor patient

Almost half of all Americans have high blood pressure, a condition that can affect blood flow and damage blood vessels in the brain, raising the risk for brain injury, cognitive impairment and dementia. In fact, a recent clinical trial determined treating blood pressure reduced mild cognitive impairment by as much as 19 percent, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. 

This is why researchers think certain blood pressure drugs can help maintain cognition. Evidence is somewhat mixed about which blood pressure drugs are beneficial — some medications provide long-term cognition benefits, while others reduce dementia risk.  

Studies on Blood Pressure Medications & Dementia

The National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association funded researchers to conduct a meta-analysis on blood pressure medications to help identify which types are most beneficial for cognition. Results suggest that older adults taking blood pressure control medications that cross the blood-brain barrier were able to recall more information over time compared to older adults taking other types of blood pressure medications, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension.

The blood-brain barrier is a group of specialized cells that line the brain. Toxins, pathogens and nutrients circulate in the blood. The blood-brain barrier blocks toxins and pathogens from entering the brain, while allowing nutrients to pass through. This helps prevent brain infections, while keeping the brain well-nourished and healthy. 

There are 11 classifications of blood pressure medications. But only two -- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) permeate the blood-brain barrier. ACE inhibitors such as captopril, fosinopril, lisinopril, perindopril, ramipril and trandolapril and some ARBs, particularly candesartan can bypass the blood-brain barrier.   

Researchers gathered and synchronized longitudinal data from 14 cohorts from six countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Japan and United States), equaling almost 13,000 participants aged 50 years or older. Researchers looked for the potential a blood pressure medication had to cross the blood-brain barrier when taken by people with healthy cognition. Researchers evaluated seven areas of cognition: attention, executive function, language, verbal memory learning, recall, mental status, and processing speed. Data was adjusted for age, gender and education level. 

Results showed:

  • Older adults taking blood pressure drugs that infuse the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to three years after follow-up compared to those taking medicines that didn’t infuse the blood-brain barrier.
  • Adults taking blood pressure drugs that didn’t infuse the blood-brain barrier had better attention skills for up to three years after follow-up.

“Meta-analysis show relationships between variables, not cause and effect. But these types of studies are important because they help guide the path of researchers,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP.” This particular study is the first of its kind. It provides doctors with additional information to help them prescribe the most appropriate blood pressure medication based on a patient’s age, health history and risks.”

High Blood Pressure Linked to Multiple Diseases

High blood pressure has ties to more than just cognition and cerebrovascular disease. It can influence cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, vision conditions and sexual dysfunction. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may encourage you to live a heart-healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling stress, managing weight and quitting smoking.  

“If you have or are at risk for high blood pressure, it’s very important to establish a strong relationship with a primary care doctor,” says Kaminetsky. “A doctor who knows you well has a better chance of working proactively, as opposed to reactively to blood pressure-related issues.” 

Have High Blood Pressure? Discuss Your Medication Options with Your Primary Care Physician

If you don’t have a physician, consider working with MDVIP. They have the time to establish strong relationships with their patients. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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