Understanding the risks and benefits of using blood pressure medication in dementia

Lead Investigator: Professor Sarah Lewis

Institution: University of Nottingham 

Grant type: PhD Studentship

Duration: 36 months

Amount: £65,142

Scientific Title: Risks and benefits of antihypertensive treatment in dementia: a cohort study using electronic primary care data

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'[This] project appears to contribute to a real gap in current research and provide valuable data that will enable high blood pressure treatment to be better tailored to those affected by dementia.'

'Evidence is required for the continued use of these drugs. This study should provide or help to provide it.' 

'This is a good proposal - clearly explained and a useful subject, as you don't want people put on drugs unless they are necessary. Drugs should indeed be re-assessed regularly especially when dementia is newly involved and when falls become a major risk.'

What do we already know?

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) affects more than 70% of people over the age of 60 and is thought to increase your risk of dementia. Blood pressure is often treated with the use of drugs called anti-hypertensives. Many large studies have shown that taking anti-hypertensives can be of great benefit in helping to reduce strokes and heart attacks; however these studies rarely focus on the specific effects o f taking these drugs for people affected by dementia. There are currently no guidelines for doctors about prescribing anti-hypertensives for people affected by dementia even though there is some concern that these treatments may increase the risk of falls. 

Therefore it is important to understand the risks versus the benefits of prescribing anti-hypertensive drugs for people affected by dementia. This means that doctors can make the right choice when deciding on a person's medication. 

What does this project involve?

The student on this project will aim to understand more about the risks and benefits of prescribing anti-hypertensive drugs for people with dementia. They will access over 50,000 anonymised electronic patient records to understand how doctors are currently prescribing medications to people with dementia. The student will also use these records to discover what the health outcomes are for people who have been prescribed these medications, including whether they have had a heart attack or stroke, or have experienced a fall or injury. They will particularly focus on whether taking anti-hypertensives could increase the risk of falls in people with dementia, and understand whether it is safe to take these medications alongside other treatments for dementia.

How will this benefit people with dementia?

It is vital to understand the risks and benefits of any medication given to people affected by dementia. The results of this research can be used to help GPs and doctors to understand how best to treat someone affected by dementia whilst minimising potential side-effects and risks. There is also a chance that this research could help to reduce the number of falls experienced by people affected by dementia, which could lead to fewer injuries and hospitalisations.