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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Could Hypertension Drugs Help People With Alzheimer's? FTD?

So, since I have been taking an ACE Inhibiter for a few years, specifically Enalapril, this article was particularly interesting. Though I take a sub-clinical 5mg dosage as a prophylactic to protect my kidneys from the ravages of Type II Diabetes,  any extra benefits are just fine with me. I think the absolutely coolest thing about this whole class of drugs is that they are all originally synthesized from compounds found in pit viper venom, they inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), a component of the blood pressure-regulating renin-angiotensin system. This article is about Alzheimer's Disease, but may certainly have other implications.

Science Daily (Oct. 17, 2011) — Within the next 20 years it is expected the number of people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) will double from its current figure of half a million to one million. A new study has looked at whether certain types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, also called hypertension, might have beneficial effects in reducing the number of new cases of Alzheimer's disease each year.

The team of researchers from the University of Bristol have looked at whether drugs already being used to treat hypertension, particularly ones that specifically reduce the activity of a biochemical pathway, called the renin angiotensin system, might reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer's and another common type of dementia called vascular dementia.

The study, conducted with the support from North Bristol NHS Trust and published online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, stems from work by one of the team's members, Dr Patrick Kehoe. Dr Kehoe, who is a Reader in Translational Dementia Research and co-leads the Dementia Research Group at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, is a leading authority on the possible role of the renin angiotensin system in Alzheimer's.
This pathway is very important in blood pressure regulation and, for at least a decade, links between hypertension and dementia have been known but poorly understood.

In more recent years it has been shown that certain signals produced by this pathway contribute to a number of the damaging effects often seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. These include memory loss, lowered blood circulation in the brain, higher levels of brain inflammation and increased levels of brain cell death due to reduced oxygen circulation.

Dr Patrick Kehoe said: "Drugs that can prevent Alzheimer's occurring at all, or delaying its onset would have a substantial benefit on the lives of future sufferers, their families, as well as an overstretched health care system.

"Current Alzheimer's drugs treat memory loss by attempting to correct chemical imbalances in the brain but these only work for a limited time. This limited treatment period is because the drugs are unable to stop the underlying mechanisms that cause the disease. Therefore the need to find new ways of stopping Alzheimer's goes on."

Dr Kehoe's research led him to experts in the study of risk factors for disease in large populations and datasets. Professors Richard Martin and Yoav Ben-Shlomo, and researcher Neil Davies in the University's School of Social and Community Medicine, used the General Practice Research Database, which holds anonymised data on approximately ten million people who attend General Practitioner surgeries around the UK. The research team made some very interesting observations in what is one of the largest studies of its kind on dementia in the UK.

The researchers found people over 60 years, who had ever taken one of two different groups of drugs that target the renin angiotensin system in the previous ten years, had a 50 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's with a more modest 25 per cent reduced risk for forms of vascular dementia compared to patients on any other types of hypertension drugs. This suggests that these benefits, if truly causal, are not merely due to a blood pressure lowering effect and may involve specific biochemical alterations.
Professor Richard Martin added: "Whilst our findings are interesting, these are not conclusive findings. We now need to do the clinical trials to properly test our observations."

Dr Kehoe and colleagues are now currently in the process of trying to obtain funding to undertake this necessary further research. If found to be successful, these treatments could be relatively quickly entered into Alzheimer's care since these drugs are already used for other conditions and are thought to have reasonably low side effect issues.


  1. Incredible blog! Great sense of humor. I'm learning so much from your posts. Please continue!
    I arrived here via Google because something seems to be going on with my own frontal lobe. No diagnosis at this point, however, only a higher number of lesions in my brain than is normal for my age.
    Like you, when I was a younger person, I scored quite high on standardized tests (97-99 percentiles), so it seems there may be farther to fall before being considered "impaired." My neuropsych results showed certain scores that were superior, while others are "low average" (with lots of "subtest scatter") -- still, not low enough, evidently, to concern anyone besides me. (Of course, I'm a blonde woman, so I think my doc expects me to be dumb. Ha.)
    I should probably seek a second opinion, but in the meantime I'm checking into Ginkgo Biloba and vitamin B3 after reading about it here. Still, the most promising alternative treatment you've detailed may be to ask someone to "Pour me a Margarita and hand me a skunk." :)

    Oh... I almost forgot. My main purpose in commenting was to pass along this link. A recent study showed that inhaled insulin may slow memory loss in Alzheimer's... (maybe relevant to FTD, too?) Best of luck to you!


  2. Hello,
    My father was diagnosed with FTD a few months ago and placed on Aricept and Namenda. We have not seen too much difference in his condition on these drugs. However, we have noticed a drastic decline in his vision. Have you heard of vision problems/ decline as a side effect of Namenda. Losing his vision will be detrimental to him so if you can answer my question, I would really be grateful.

    Thank you,

  3. Hi Sheila, and thanks for the comment:
    Yes! I did have very severe visual problems, but not from Nemanda, but from the Aricept. They got better after 8 weeks or so, and finally went away. Most recently I was diagnosed with a cataract in my left eye, it developed quickly, ...then it went away. My point is, the visual effects get better, at least they did for me. Every case of FTD is different.

    Some days are better than others.


  4. Thanks for your answer. Since having left my comment we took my dad to an eye doctor and he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. But recently my dad stopped taking all medications. He is angry and defensive whenever we discuss medications with him. He believes he is not I'll and that we are just trying to make him sick. I don't know what to do. I see without meds he is having a harder time communicating and is withdrawn. It's hard to take care of someone who doesn't want to be cared for. If we were to crush Namenda and Aricept to add to food would it still be as effective? Any other ideas? Your blog has given me alot of information. Thanks. It's very valuable and appreciated.

  5. Hello Lee
    Hope you had a good holiday.
    I wasn't sure where to leave just a comment not connected to a post....so I am leaving it here.
    Have you heard about Howard's FTD Facebook group? It is private for us EOD/FTD's.
    I have relly enjoyed your post on your blog, your comments feel very familiar to me and it is comforting to know we are not alone. I haven't seen any new post recently and was wondering if you are doing ok. You couldn't be hermiting since October ;-)
    Hope to hear you are ok........

  6. Seems I just got the diagnosis ... in the mail. Should I purchase a supply of "Don't Confuse Me With Someone Who Gives a Shit buttons?

    I've spent my life working with children of neglect and abuse. I've had 3 concussions and abuse myself as a very young child. I have been a lifetime high moderate but not binge or commode hugging drunk drinker. I do not frequent bars, have no DWI's or work lapses ever because of drinking.

    Funny, I aced half my tests. My IQ split is 140 - 80 (verbal then performance). I may be the first gifted idiot you'll encounter.

    So, I'm freaked out and not giving a shit at the same time. I have an international reputation in reading disorders and must seriously begin making strategic decisions.

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