UTMB Logo Blood pressure drugs may not only help maintain normal pressure of the blood but also be more useful for elderly people. Experts from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston declare that blood pressure medications battle against muscular weakness that generally accompanies aging. The findings are supposedly based on the investigation relating loss of muscle mass with age-related alterations in the behavior of the hair-thin blood vessels, or capillaries. It is assumed that these capillaries supply muscles with the amino acids required for growth.

Drugs known as vasodilators that are usually prescribed to control high blood pressure and avoid angina seemingly encourage blood vessels to widen. In the present study, medication called as sodium nitroprusside was used which is apparently employed in hospitals and administered intravenously. 12 healthy older volunteers were included in the study and were randomly segregated into two six-person groups.

“When a young person eats food, insulin secretion causes the blood vessels in the muscle to dilate, so a lot of blood goes into the muscle and a lot of amino acids are available to build muscle proteins. Older people’s blood vessels have far less response to insulin, but we found that if you give them a drug that causes them to dilate, you can increase the nutritive flow to the muscles and completely restore normal growth,” remarked Elena Volpi, UTMB professor, senior author.

In the course of the study, scientists inserted catheters into the arteries and veins feeding and draining the subjects’ leg muscles. They also utilized the arterial catheter for infusing the muscles with insulin at levels very much alike those developed by a meal. While one group was provided with the vasodilator drug, the others were given a placebo. Having generated blood sample and muscle biopsy analysis, the authors concluded that the muscle protein synthesis and breaks down.

Volpi commented, “If by improving blood flow during and immediately after eating we can improve muscle growth in response to meals in older people, then we’re going to have a major new tool to reduce muscle loss with aging. By itself, that could mean a substantially decreased risk of physical dysfunction and disability.”

Virtually normal muscle growth was reported in the older participants who were given the vasodilator with insulin. It is claimed that in terms of muscle growth the vasodilator can make a 70 year old look like a 30 year old. However, larger studies can be conducted for affirming the findings that display vasodilator drugs as a crucial tool for avoiding frailty in older people.

The study is available in the Online Ahead of Print section of the journal Diabetes.