People taking a certain type of blood pressure medication called calcium channel blockers may also be lowering their risk of getting Parkinson's disease, according to a study released Wednesday.

A study by Swiss researchers found that people who had been taking a calcium channel blocker medication for an extended period of time had a 23 percent lower risk of developing the incurable neurological disease than people not on this type of drug.

The researchers also assessed several other classes of blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors, AT II antagonists and beta blockers, but none of those appeared to offer the protective effect of calcium channel blockers.

"Long-term use of calcium channel blockers was associated with a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, while no such association was seen for other high blood pressure medications," said Christoph Meier, lead author of the paper and a researcher at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland.

Meier and colleagues studied more than 7,000 men and women from the United Kingdom over the age of 40 for the study, but they did not investigate the mechanism by which the drugs lowered the risk of Parkinson's.

Calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessels. The net result is that they cause blood vessels to dilate or expand, and they lead to less contraction of the heart muscle.

The class includes drugs such as Dilacor, Adalat, Cardazem, Procardia and Covera.

Parkinson's is a chronic and progressive disorder that typically afflicts people over the age of 60. The illness stems from the loss or destruction of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to problems with motor control.

Patients typically suffer from tremors and shakes, impaired balance and coordination and also stiffness or rigidity in the limbs or trunk.

The study appears in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

CHICAGO, Feb 6, 2008 (AFP)


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