Beta blockers, a venerable class of blood pressure drugs that has fallen from favor in recent years, may help protect the aging brain against changes linked to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia that rob memory and mental function, new research indicates.
In autopsies on the brains of 774 men after their deaths, scientists found that those who took beta blockers to help control hypertension had fewer of the brain lesions and less of the brain shrinkage seen in Alzheimer's than men who took other types of blood pressure medications and those who left the condition untreated. Their brains also showed significantly less evidence of multiple tiny strokes, called microinfarcts.
A parallel study showed that an expanded group of men who took beta blockers also experienced less cognitive decline as they aged compared with those in the control groups.
The research, to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in March but released to the media on Monday, is preliminary; of the 774 Japanese American men who agreed to have their brains examined after death, 610 had suffered from high blood pressure and only 40 had taken beta blockers.