High blood pressure drugs may prevent epilepsy, study finds

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Researchers from Stanford Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, have made a groundbreaking discovery that could potentially reduce the risk of epilepsy in adults.

Their findings were published in the journal JAMA Neurology and revealed that a certain class of blood pressure medication, known as angiotensin receptor blockers, might prevent the onset of epilepsy, especially in individuals at high risk, such as older adults who have experienced strokes.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures, which are sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily alter brain function.

While the disorder can develop at any age, it is particularly prevalent in individuals over 65, affecting more than 1% of this age group. Stroke survivors are notably susceptible, with about 10% experiencing seizures within five years after a stroke.

High blood pressure and vascular disease also increase the likelihood of developing epilepsy in later life.

Traditionally, epilepsy is managed post-diagnosis using anti-seizure medications, but there are no approved treatments to prevent the disease in people who are at high risk of developing it.

However, recent studies, including this new research, suggest that angiotensin receptor blockers could fill this gap.

The study analyzed health care claims from a national database, covering over 20 million Americans with health insurance, including Medicare. The team focused on 2.2 million adults diagnosed with high blood pressure, ensuring they did not already have epilepsy.

Their analysis compared those who were prescribed angiotensin receptor blockers to those taking other blood pressure medications.

The results were significant. Between 2010 and 2017, those taking angiotensin receptor blockers had a 20% to 30% lower risk of developing epilepsy, even when stroke patients were excluded from the analysis.

This suggests that the protective effect of these drugs is not solely due to stroke prevention but may also be attributed to their ability to reduce inflammation and control blood pressure.

The idea that angiotensin receptor blockers might prevent epilepsy is not entirely new. Previous studies in Germany and animal models have indicated similar outcomes.

However, the findings from this larger and more diverse U.S. population strengthen the evidence, suggesting a robust link between these medications and a reduced risk of epilepsy.

Kimford Meador, MD, the senior author of the study and a professor of neurology at Stanford, expressed enthusiasm about the results.

“This is incredibly exciting because we don’t currently have any medicines that prevent epilepsy,” Meador stated, emphasizing the potential of this research to lead to new treatment protocols.

The study also pointed out that while all blood pressure medications might help decrease the risk of epilepsy due to their role in managing blood pressure, angiotensin receptor blockers might offer specific benefits in reducing epilepsy risk beyond their cardiovascular effects.

However, despite these promising results, Meador and his colleagues are cautious.

They advocate for randomized clinical trials to firmly establish the effectiveness of angiotensin receptor blockers in preventing epilepsy before any changes in treatment guidelines can be recommended.

This research opens up a potential new chapter in preventive medicine, suggesting that managing blood pressure with specific medications could also help manage the risk of developing epilepsy, particularly among those with high blood pressure or a history of stroke.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and natural coconut sugar could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about added sugar in your diet linked to higher blood pressure, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Neurology.

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