Blood pressure drug increases blood flow in brains of people with Alzheimer’s

17 June 2019

Blood pressure drug increases blood flow in brains of people with Alzheimer’s
Hypertension: Effects of Nilvadipine on cerebral blood flow in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers in America have shown that nilvadipine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, can increase blood flow in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings are published today (Monday 17 June) in the scientific journal, Hypertension.

There is a decrease in blood flow in the brain during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – the leading cause of dementia. This observation has led researchers to look at whether drugs that affect blood pressure could play a role at improving blood flow, and potentially benefit those affected by the disease.

In this study, researchers investigated whether nilvadipine changed the blood flow in the brains of 32 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Nilvadipine is a drug already used in the clinic to treat high blood pressure.

Researchers took brain scans of study volunteers at the start and end of the six-month trial. They looked at how blood flow changed after treatment with the drug or a dummy drug.

The team found that blood flow to the hippocampus – the brain region important for memory and learning – increased by 20%. The blood flow to other regions of the brain stayed the same.

The study sample was too small to look for any effects on memory or thinking in the volunteers.

Dr Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We know high blood pressure is a risk factor for developing dementia but it’s unclear whether blood pressure-lowering drugs could improve memory and thinking in people with Alzheimer’s.

“Recent results from a large trial of nilvadipine showed no benefit for people with Alzheimer’s. While this study found nilvadipine increased blood flow in the hippocampus, it was too small to tell us anything about its effect on other disease-associated brain changes or people’s symptoms.

“We must leave no stone unturned in the hunt for new dementia treatments. Testing existing drugs approved for use in other health conditions continues to offer a tantalising opportunity to speed up the drug discovery process.

“There is strong evidence that there are things we can do to keep our brain healthy as we age. This includes keeping our blood pressure and cholesterol in check as well as not smoking, only drinking within the recommended limits, eating a balanced diet, and staying mentally and physically active.”