Blood pressure medications don’t affect Parkinson’s progression

No evidence hypertension treatment delays disease

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Medications that lower blood pressure don’t appear to influence the progression of Parkinson’s disease, a study reports.

The study, “Antihypertensive drugs may not delay the symptom progression of Parkinson’s disease: A 2-year follow-up study,” was published in Heliyon.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by the progressive dysfunction and death of cells in the brain that are responsible for making the chemical messenger dopamine. The factors that control how quickly Parkinson’s progresses remain poorly understood.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among people with Parkinson’s. By some estimates, more than half of patients have hypertension. As such, antihypertensive medications are commonly given to people with the disease.

But there hasn’t been much formal research into whether or how blood pressure medicines may influence the progression of Parkinson’s disease, leading scientists at Chongqing Medical University, China to analyze data from the Parkinson’s Disease Progression Marker Initiative (PPMI), a large global study that’s collecting clinical data on hundreds of Parkinson’s patients, to learn more.

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No difference in disease progression with blood pressure medications

“Studies have shown that more than 60% of PD [Parkinson’s disease] patients are diagnosed with [hypertension] … Therefore, the role of antihypertensive drugs in the progression of PD is worth exploring,” wrote the researchers who identified data on 321 people with recently diagnosed Parkinson’s who weren’t taking any medication for the disease. More than 95% of them were white and about two-thirds were male.

Among them, 102 had a diagnosis of hypertension and were being treated with antihypertensive drugs. Another 60 didn’t have hypertension, but were being treated for other health conditions known to affect heart health, such as diabetes or high blood fat levels. The remaining 159 patients didn’t have any known cardiovascular health issues.

The scientists then analyzed clinical outcomes among the three groups over two years using statistical analyses to compare them. This included measures of symptom severity, as well as imaging assessments to track dopamine activity in the brain.

Across all the measures, there were no noteworthy differences between the groups. This means disease progression didn’t appear to substantially differ for patients on antihypertensive drugs.

“There is no evidence that antihypertensive drugs can delay PD progression within [two] years,” said the scientists, who noted their study was limited to a relatively small number of patients with a fairly short follow-up time. Larger studies may help to more definitively evaluate the effect of antihypertensive medicines in Parkinson’s, they said. More research to compare the effects of different types of medicines used for blood pressure is also needed.

“Although the PPMI database is the largest PD database, sample size problems were inevitable … With more patients, we can conduct a more comprehensive study,” they wrote.