Scientists found that certain type of high blood pressure medicines may be helpful in protecting older adults from declines in memory and other cognitive functions. Drugs in question are ACE inhibitors, the kind that reaches the brain, also known as centrally active.

These centrally active ACE inhibitors may help reduce the inflammation in the brain that is important in the development of Alzheimer's disease. On the other hand, non-centrally active ACE inhibitors were associated with an increased risk of dementia but since the results were not statistically significant, this increase could have occurred by chance.

This study suggests that there is much more to treating blood pressure than achieving a goal of 140/80 as these anti-hypertension drugs may have broader implications. They have already been linked to protection of heart and kidney failure, and the new study shows evidence that they may also protect against dementia.

Mental decline has been measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State Exam, a test that evaluates memory, language, abstract reasoning and other cognitive functions. For each year the study participants were exposed to centrally active ACE inhibitors, the mental decline in test results was 50% lower than the decline in people taking other kinds of high blood pressure pills.

The theory that may explain the study results is that the ACE inhibitors may be decreasing inflammation in the brain. Study results need to be confirmed with randomly selected people who would receive either ACE inhibitors that are centrally active or those that aren't.