In a new study, researchers found that specific combinations of statins and high blood pressure drugs may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
This is the first study to test the link between different combinations of these frequently used drugs and dementia risk in a large group of older Americans.
The findings suggest that treatments already in use for blood pressure and cholesterol control could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
The research was conducted by a team at USC.
Dementia affects about 7 million Americans and is projected to grow to 12 million over the next two decades.
With no proven treatments, there has been increased global attention on prevention and risk reduction of dementia, including maintenance of a healthy lifestyle and management of risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Approximately one in four adults over age 65 use both high blood pressure drugs and statins for these conditions.
The study examined the medical and pharmacy claims of a random 20% sample of Medicare beneficiaries, aged 67 and higher, enrolled in traditional Medicare from 2007 to 2014.
The researchers linked claims from Medicare Parts A (inpatient care), B (outpatient care) and D (prescription drugs) to enrollment files that included beneficiaries’ characteristics such as race and sex.
The team found the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs pravastatin and rosuvastatin, combined with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) for high blood pressure, was linked to reduced risk for dementia as compared to other combinations of drugs.
The risk was especially lower for people using pravastatin and rosuvastatin in combination with ARBs, and more so for men than women.
The magnitudes of risk reductions were meaningful; for example, using ARBs combined with pravastatin was associated with 21% lower odds of a dementia diagnosis, as compared to individuals using other combinations of drugs.
The team says doctors don’t currently have drugs that are proven to treat dementia, but even small delays in onset can dramatically reduce the burden on patients, caregivers and the health system as a whole.
More research is needed but that if their findings are replicated, specific combinations of statins and high blood pressure drugs might be recommended in the interest of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The lead author of the study is Julie Zissimopoulos, the director of the Aging and Cognition program.
The study is published in PLOS One.
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