Background: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent decline in physical function in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). We aimed to see whether ACE inhibitors also prevent reduction in physical performance and in muscle strength in older women who do not have CHF.
Methods: We assessed 3-year rates of decline in both knee extensor muscle strength and walking speed in 641 women with hypertension who had participated in the Women's Health and Aging Study. Women were stratified into four groups according to type and duration of antihypertensive drug treatment. 61 had used ACE inhibitors continuously, 133 intermittently, 146 never, and 301 had used other hypertensive drugs either continuously or intermittently.
Findings: Participants who had taken ACE inhibitors continuously had a lower mean 3-year decline in muscle strength of -1.0 kg (SE 1.1) compared with -3.7 (0.5) kg in continuous/intermittent users of other antihypertensive drugs (p=0.016) and with -3.9 kg in those who had never used antihypertensives (p=0.026). Muscle strength fell by 3.0 kg in 3 years in both continuous and intermittent users of ACE inhibitors (p=0.096). Mean 3-year decline in walking speed in continuous ACE inhibitor users was -1.7 cm/s compared with -13.6 cm/s in intermittent users of ACE inhibitors (p=0.015), -15.7 cm/s in continuous/intermittent users of other antihypertensive drugs (p=0.002), and -17.9 cm/s in never users of antihypertensive drugs (p=0.001).
Interpretation: ACE inhibitor treatment may halt or slow decline in muscle strength in elderly women with hypertension and without CHF.