A new study, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, has shown that some high blood pressure medications that cross the blood-brain barrier are linked to better memory recall in older adults.

Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is one of the potential risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.

One trial has even shown that treating high blood pressure with antihypertensive agents reduced the cases of mild cognitive impairment by nearly 20%.

Commonly used antihypertensive drugs include angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers, and diuretics. These medicines act in different ways to reduce blood pressure, while some are known to cross the blood-brain barrier, having an impact on cognitive function.

Study author Dr. Daniel Nation of the University of California, Irvine, said, “Research has been mixed on which medicines have the most benefit to cognition.”

“Studies of angiotensin II receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have suggested these medicines may confer the greatest benefit to long-term cognition,” he added, “while other studies have shown the benefits of calcium channel blockers and diuretics on reducing dementia risk.”

“Hypertension occurs decades prior to the onset of dementia symptoms, affecting blood flow not only in the body but also to the brain,” Dr. Nation explained. “Treating hypertension is likely to have long-term beneficial effects on brain health and cognitive function later.”

The researchers found that older adults who took high blood pressure medicines that cross the blood-brain barrier had better memory recall for up to 3 years of follow-up. And adults who took antihypertensive agents that did not cross the blood-brain barrier had better attention for up to 3 years of follow-up, according to Science Daily.

Study co-author Dr. Jean Ho said, “These findings represent the most powerful evidence to-date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory. It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they medications that cross the blood-brain barrier.”

However, there were a few limitations of this study. The authors could not account for differences in the racial or ethnic background based on the available studies.

This is an important aspect of future studies because previous research has shown that people from various racial or ethnic backgrounds may respond differently to different antihypertensive agents. The article was published in Science Daily.