Cardiovascular disease accounts for about 2000 deaths per day in the U.S. Costs relating to cardiovascular disease add up to about $300 billion.
Recently, a discovery made by Professor Peter Nordstrom and his colleagues of Umea University in Umea, Sweden confirmed that drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease could be repurposed to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and other cardiovascular diseases. They looked at cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) and performed an experiment observing 7073 people with Alzheimer’s disease. ChEIs work by improving the effectiveness of acetylcholine by increasing the concentrations in the brain or by strengthening the sensitivity of nerve cells to it. Increased concentrations of acetylcholine leads to better communication between nerve cells and has a high chance of stabilizing some symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In addition to these beneficial effects, ChEIs have also been shown to effect the vagus nerve in the brain, which controls heart rate. Other studies have suggested that they posses anti-inflammatory properties. Professor Nordstrom and his colleagues found that those who used ChEIs had a 36% reduced risk of death from any cause, a 38% reduced risk of myocardial infarction, and a 26% reduced risk of death from other cardiovascular diseases.
Patients taking the highest recommended doses of ChEIs had the lowest risk for heart attacks. Prof Nordstrom says, “If you translate these reductions in risk into absolute figures, it means that for every 100,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease, there would be 180 fewer heart attacks.” This is the first time ChEIs have been linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Currently, we cannot say that using ChEIs directly reduce the risk of heart attacks, only that they are association with this risk reduction.