This is one of the first studies to suggest that a drug treatment could delay a decline in physical function, said lead researcher Graziano Onder, M.D. Our results indicate that ACE inhibitor drugs could slow the process that leads to disability.
In a study of 641 older women with hypertension, those who regularly took ACE inhibitors had slower declines in walking speed and muscle strength than those taking other types of hypertension drugs, or taking no hypertension drugs. Declines in walking speed and muscle strength have been shown to predict the onset of disability, mortality, and nursing home and hospital admission in older adults. If additional research confirms our hypothesis that ACE inhibitors have a positive effect on muscle function, they could become an important treatment for delaying the loss of physical function in older adults, said Onder.
ACE inhibitors had previously been shown to improve exercise tolerance in people with heart failure. Researchers thought this effect was related to the drugs positive action on the cardiovascular system.
To test a theory that the drugs can affect muscle function, Onder and colleagues analyzed data from the Womens Health and Aging Study (WHAS), started in 1991 by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) through a contract with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"The finding that medication use is associated with maintenance of walking ability in a group of partially disabled women is exciting," said Dr. Richard Havlik, M.D., MPH, Chief of NIAs Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry. "If the result is replicated in further research it could lead to a valuable intervention."