Emerging research suggests that people with a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
However, investigators believe the association may have more to do with anti-hypertension medication than high blood pressure itself.
“It’s likely that this protective effect is coming from antihypertensive drugs,” said co-author Dr. John Kauwe, associate professor of biology at Brigham Young University (BYU).
“These drugs are already FDA approved. We need to take a serious look at them for Alzheimer’s prevention.”
Researchers analyzed genetic data from 17,008 individuals with Alzheimer’s and 37,154 people without the disease. Data came from the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium and the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project.
Study results appear in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Scholars from the University of Cambridge, Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Washington worked with BYU researchers on the massive study. With the help of BYU’s supercomputer, Kauwe, and undergraduate student Kevin Boehme pieced together 32 data sets for the analysis.
Researchers searched for links between Alzheimer’s disease and a number of health conditions including diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol but only found a significant association between higher systolic blood pressure and reduced Alzheimer’s risk.
“Our results are the opposite of what people might think,” said fellow co-author Dr. Paul Crane, a University of Washington associate professor of internal medicine.
“It may be that high blood pressure is protective, or it may be that something that people with high blood pressure are exposed to more often, such as antihypertensive medication, is protecting them from Alzheimer’s disease.”
University of Cambridge senior investigator scientist Dr. Robert Scott led the study, which used a statistical technique termed “Mendelian randomization” to find if positive or negative risk factors for Alzheimer’s could be determined.
Factors such as body mass index, insulin resistance, blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes were reviewed. Mendelian randomization uses subjects’ genetics as a proxy for a randomized clinical trial.
“This is to date the most authoritative paper looking at causal relationships between Alzheimer’s disease and these potentially modifiable factors,” Kauwe said. “In terms of the number of samples, it can’t get bigger at this point.”
Source: Brigham Young University