NEW YORK (CBS) — New research shows people taking certain blood pressure drugs could be helping their brains as well.

Peter Franklin has heart disease, so the 74-year-old is doing what he can to reduce his risk factors.

“I would have to be stupid not to be careful about what I’m eating and what pills I’m taking,” said Franklin.

He takes a beta blocker to control his high blood pressure. Now, a new study shows the drug could also reduce his risk for dementia.

Researchers looked at nearly 800 men and found those who took the blood pressure drugs may be less likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“When you have high blood pressure, there is an enormous force on the arteries,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, of Lenox Hill Hospital. “If we take a medication like a beta blocker, where that force on the arteries is decreased, then it decreases the possibility of damaging the arteries, which is what can actually lead to dementia.”

Previous research shows high blood pressure in midlife is a major risk factor for dementia.

Researchers found beta blockers may not only help reduce Alzheimer’s brain lesions; they may also keep the brain from shrinking.

The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to jump in the coming years as the population ages. Experts say identifying those at risk and delaying the disease is key.

Franklin is glad the drug he needs for his heart could also keep his brain healthy.

“If I’m getting that as an extra benefit, I certainly would like that,” he said.

There’s no dementia in his family, but he says it’s something everyone worries about when they get older.

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