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Can Statin Drugs Cause Dementia

Do Statins Make You Forgetful

NEW STUDY! Dementia risk and statins – 2021 – Are statins safe?

One of the potential side effects of statins is that they can cause memory loss. Memory loss is considered an uncommon side effect, but it is still an important one to know about and consider before taking this drug.

Anyone taking any form of medication needs to be aware of all the potential risks and side effects. While many of those may not affect the majority of people taking the drug, awareness of the potential risk is incredibly important. That way, when the side effect occurs, the patient can trace it back to the medication and let their doctor know about what problems they are experiencing. Then their doctor may prescribe them something else that affects them far less but still offers basically the same results.

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Medical researchers have not come to an agreement on whether or not statins truly do cause memory loss. There have been numerous statin users who have reported memory loss as an effect of taking the drug. Still, researchers are not convinced that there isnt a secondary incidental cause for the memory loss. There simply isnt conclusive proof that the drug has that particular side effect. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite is taking place. Research shows that statins may actually reduce the risk of people developing Alzheimers disease.

The Link Between Statins And Memory Loss

While statin users have reported memory loss to the FDA, studies havent found evidence to support these claims. Research has actually suggested the opposite that statins may help prevent Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia.

In a 2013 review, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine looked at 41 different studies on statins to see if there was a link between taking the medication and memory loss. Combined, the studies followed 23,000 men and women with no history of memory problems for up to 25 years.

The researchers found no evidence that using statins caused memory loss or dementia. In fact, there was some evidence that long-term statin use may protect against dementia.

Scientists believe this is because certain types of dementia are caused by small blockages in blood vessels that carry blood to the brain. Statins may help to reduce these blockages.

There remains some uncertainty about whether statins affect memory.

A 2015 study found that a small group of patients taking statins experienced amnesia. However, that finding may have been insignificant. The percentage of people taking statins who reported memory issues wasnt much different from those taking other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Like most medications, statins do have side effects. Other reported risks and side effects include:

  • muscle pain and weakness

What To Do If You Think Statins Are Causing Memory Loss

If you currently take a statin and are experiencing side effects like memory loss, mental confusion, or muscle pain, make an appointment to talk to your doctor today.

Go in armed with as much information on cholesterol as possible.

If youd like a deep scientific understanding of cholesterols role in the body, I highly recommend Dr. Peter Attias 9-part blog series The Straight Dope on Cholesterol.

Youll almost certainly know more about cholesterol than your doctor when youre done.

Tell your doctor that you want to have the small particle LDL test done.

As a matter of course, most doctors dont run this test.

Even doctors who understand the value of this test dont recommend it because its normally not covered by insurance.

You can ask for it anyway and offer to pay out of pocket.

Another test to consider is the Vertical Auto Profile or VAP test.

The Wall Street Journal has called the VAP test one worth paying for out of pocket.

And finally, remember that preventing heart disease, not simply having good numbers, is the real goal.

You can proactively prevent heart disease by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Drs. Bowden and Sinatra offer these simple lifestyle recommendations to address the true underlying causes of heart disease:

  • Eat a diet of unprocessed foods
  • Reduce sugar, grains, and vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids
  • Eat heart-healthy fats like those in nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado
  • Manage stress

Also Check: What Are The Last Stages Of Dementia

Memory Loss Is A Documented Side Effect Of Statin Drugs

Interestingly, the manufacturers of statin drugs are fully aware of their ability to interfere with memory and learning and to cause brain fog. In fact, these side effects are listed on the insert of every statin prescription bottle.

The reasons for this link are explained by Be Brain Fit:

Statins decrease the production of CoQ10, a nutrient thats protective of both the heart and the brain.

CoQ10 deficiency is believed to be responsible for the fatigue and muscle pain commonly experienced from statin drug use.

Some people get very irritable, depressed, anxious, or even suicidal when taking these drugs or when following a low-fat diet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that warning labels state that statins can cause memory loss as well as mental confusion, liver problems, and type 2 diabetes.

Statins can lead to diabetes at an alarming rate.

Research has found that nearly half of women who take these medications eventually develop diabetes, a disease which greatly increases your risk for dementia.

Why Is This Statins Study Important

The Connection Between Statins, Memory Loss &  Dementia

Statin use is well established among adults with cardiovascular disease and those at high risk for related health problems. However, we dont know how these medications may benefit adults older than age without 75 heart disease or how they may protect the brain from sub-clinical vascular disease, says Dr. Carrasquillo. The PREVENTABLE study will evaluate the drugs effect on the brain and physical function. The study is important because there are very few clinical trials involving people over 75. Additionally, not many people in that age group were ever evaluated for the risks and benefits of statins during the drugs early trials.

The most critical purpose of this study underscores Dr. Carrasquillos point. We dont have any good treatment for dementia. Statins may be another way to approach the disease.

Finding older volunteers who arent already taking statins is a challenge. Most doctors prescribe statins for elderly patients, especially at UHealth, where we treat a lot of co-morbidities, Dr. Carrasquillo says. He feels that UHealths success in recruiting participants is especially valuable. We have a degree of diversity and ethnicity in South Florida that is hard to replicate in other parts of the country.

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Statin Side Effects: Memory Loss Depression And More

There is little doubt that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Mevacor, Lipitor, and Crestor are linked to serious memory loss, fuzzy thinking, and learning difficulties.

One way statins do this is by , a nutrient thats protective of both the heart and the brain.

CoQ10 deficiency is believed to be responsible for the fatigue and muscle pain commonly experienced with statin use.

Some people get very irritable, depressed, anxious, or even suicidal when taking these drugs, or when following a low-fat diet.

Statins can lead to diabetes at an alarming rate.

Nearly half of women who take statins eventually develop diabetes, a disease which greatly increases the risk for dementia.

The Link Between Increased Statin Use And The Dementia Epidemic

As noted by the organization Be Brain Fit , there has been a massive increase in the number of Americans taking statin drugs like Crestor and Lipitor in recent years. At the same time, there has been an astronomical increase in the number of people experiencing memory loss, dementia and Alzheimers disease, which is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. BBF suggests that these two statistics may be no coincidence.

People are generally only told about the link between cholesterol and heart disease, but cholesterol also has incredibly important functions in the body. It is found in particularly high concentrations in the brain, with more than 60 percent of this important organ consisting of fat. The brain uses cholesterol to manufacture neurotransmitters, the chemicals which enable brain cells to communicate with each other. Neurotransmitters are also responsible for regulating mood, as well as facilitating focus and the ability to remember things, learn new things and cope with stress.

When normal neurotransmitter activity is disrupted, psychiatric disorders and nervous system diseases can be triggered.

For this reason, doctors admit that high cholesterol levels help prevent dementia in the elderly but will not admit the inverse: that low cholesterol levels can be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.

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Effects Of Cholesterol On Brain Health And Memory

Although cholesterol is an important component in the brain where it occurs in high concentrations, its also linked with heart disease. In fact, your brain is 60% fat and much of it is cholesterol. Your brain cells would die without cholesterol. So, cholesterol is required for the production chemicals brain cells known as neurotransmitters which are responsible for mood, ability to remember, learn, focus, and cope with stress.

Most psychiatric disorders and nervous system diseases are associated with abnormal neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

High total cholesterol lowers the risk of dementia in the elderly. However, drugs that lower cholesterol can lead to memory loss. Every prescription bottle of statin contains this warning.

High Cholesterol Is Beneficial

Atorvastatin and Dementia: Do atorvastatin and other statins cause dementia and memory loss?

According to Dr. Ravnskov, high cholesterol is beneficial.

He states that the social campaign that cholesterol is harmful to your health is the greatest medical scandal in modern time.

Cholesterol is a waxy, whitish-yellow fat, and it is a crucial building block for all of your cell membranes. It is essential for making the membranes, and actually the entire cell structures, and is vital for synthesis of vitamin D, your hormones , and fat-dissolving bile acids.

Healthy brain function requires amyloid plaques that form in the brain. Researchers have found that higher levels of cholesterol are linked to having more amyloid in the brain. The higher levels of LDL cholesterol, the more amyloid in your brain.

Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol, and decreases when you eat more. The brain has a higher cholesterol content than any other organ, but it doesnt use the cholesterol from your blood your brain produces its own cholesterol.

So heres my point: if your brain needs cholesterol to maintain healthy cognitive function, and statins keep the cholesterol levels lower in your brain, Dr. Ravnskovs research is right statins accelerate memory loss and Alzheimers.

In your body, cholesterol serves three main purposes:

  • It aids in the production of sex hormones
  • Its a building block for human tissues
  • It assists in bile production in the liver.

It doesnt hurt to try.

Also Check: Can A Client Who Has Dementia Also Experience Delirium

Muscle Pain And Weakness

The most common side effect is muscle pain and weakness, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, most likely due to the depletion of Co-Q10, a nutrient that supports muscle function. Dr. Beatrice Golomb of San Diego, California is currently conducting a series of studies on statin side effects. The industry insists that only 2-3 percent of patients get muscle aches and cramps but in one study, Golomb found that 98 percent of patients taking Lipitor and one-third of the patients taking Mevachor suffered from muscle problems.4 A message board devoted to Lipitor at forum.ditonline.com contained more than 800 posts, many detailing severe side effects. The Lipitor board at www.rxlist.com contains more than 2,600 posts .

The test for muscle wasting or rhabdomyolysis is elevated levels of a chemical called creatine kinase . But many people experience pain and fatigue even though they have normal CK levels.5

John Altrocchi took Mevacor for three years without side effects then he developed calf pain so severe he could hardly walk. He also experienced episodes of temporary memory loss.

Active people are much more likely to develop problems from statin use than those who are sedentary. In a study carried out in Austria, only six out of 22 athletes with familial hypercholesterolemia were able to endure statin treatment.9 The others discontinued treatment because of muscle pain.

Evidence For Statins Increasing Risk Of Dementia

Alarming case reports began to accumulate in the early 2000s. A description of 60 case reports, published in 2003, advised taking concerns about statin-related cognitive impairment seriously, though cognitive adverse responses were most likely uncommon.4 Simvastatin, atorvastatin, and pravastatin were the medications taken by the patients who were described. About half of these patients noticed cognitive problems within two months of starting treatment. The symptoms improved after drug discontinuation in about half of those affected, which is different from what would be expected of a person with Alzheimers disease, which is a progressive condition.

The link between cognitive symptoms and statins, furthermore, is supported by a couple of additional lines of evidence: first, some patients with this problem who noted improvement after stopping their statin medication experienced a recurrence when the medication was restarted.4 Second, a couple of small but well-designed experimental double-blind, placebo-controlled trials associated poorer performance on neuropsychological tests with the use of statins.5,6 In a description of statin effects on a couple of affected patients, the authors reminded us that a cognitive effect which looks small on neuropsychological testing can cast a much larger shadow over actual day-to-day functioning.7

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How Cholesterol Impacts Brain Health And Memory

Cholesterol has been demonized as a cause of heart disease, but its less known as an essential component of brain cells.

Cholesterol occurs in particularly high concentrations in the brain.

The brain is 60% fat with much of that being cholesterol.

Without adequate cholesterol, your brain cells would die.

Cholesterol is needed to make neurotransmitters, chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other.

Neurotransmitters regulate mood and the ability to focus, learn, remember, and handle stress.

Abnormal neurotransmitter activity is responsible for many nervous system diseases and psychiatric disorders.

Even your doctors may not know that high total cholesterol has been found to actually reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly.

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” Nearly half of women who take statins eventually develop diabetes, a disease which greatly increases the risk for dementia.

Understanding Cholesterol In The Brain

Risks and Benefits of Statin in Dementia

Researchers are also interested in cholesterol in the brain, as this substance and the way that it is processed are very important for the health of brain cells, and may be affected in dementia. For example, one of the common genes that increase the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease APOE4 plays a role in the processing and use of cholesterol and other fats. Understanding any differences may lead to clues about changes in the brain that cause dementia, and things that we could tackle with treatments.

Changes with cholesterol processing in the brain may not be related to the levels of cholesterol in the blood. More research is needed to better understand this relationship and what it can tell us.

Also Check: How Does Someone Get Diagnosed With Dementia

Pros And Cons Of Statins

Statins are an effective treatment for lowering high cholesterol and improving heart health, but they still have risks.

The best way to improve heart health is through lifestyle changes, such as exercise and eating a well-balanced diet. Even if your doctor prescribes statins, these medications arent a replacement for healthy habits.

Things To Be Aware Of When Youre On Statins

Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid or ease side effects:

Be careful with grapefruit. The juice contains certain chemicals that may interrupt how statins metabolize in your gut. While you donât have to give up grapefruit, ask your doctor what amount is safe to eat or drink.

Tell your doctor about all the medications youâre on. Certain drugs can interact with statins and may cause side effects. These include:

Take it easy when you exercise. One of the common side effects of statins is muscle aches and pain. But too much exercise can raise your risk for muscle injury or make it worse. If youâre starting a new exercise routine, build up the intensity slowly.

Show Sources

Robert S. Rosenson, MD, professor of medicine , Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai director, Cardiometabolic Unit, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City.

Mayo Clinic: âStatins: Are these cholesterol-lowering drugs right for you?â âStatin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks.â

CDC: âCholesterol.â

Canadian Pharmacists Journal: âStatins and their effect on cognition.â

Translational Neurodegeneration: âThe role of statins in both cognitive impairment and protection against dementia: a tale of two mechanisms.â

Journal of Internal Medicine: âStatin use reduces the risk of dementia in elderly patients: a nationwide data survey and propensity analysis.â

FDA: âCholesterol-lowering drugs get labeling changes.â

Recommended Reading: How Are Other Body Systems Affected By Alzheimer’s

Recommendation For Future Research

A substantial number of studies have been published on statin use and its associated dementia risk over the past few years. Despite this large number of publications, there is room for improvement to our understanding of the probable biological mechanisms. To address these issues, we should:

  • Conduct more high-quality longitudinal studies with longer follow-up periods, which include both new and chronic statins users. Such studies would help to reduce selection bias and potential confounding variables.

  • The biological causal mechanisms between statin use and dementia risk reduction are not well established. Therefore, we need more translational research as well as clinical studies to understand the fundamental biological causes, which may explain the observed association.

  • We need to better measure the levels of exposure to potential confounding variables, for example, comedication medication exposure, dose, duration, and date of initiating . Additionally, information about comorbidity chronicity, severity, and treatment requirement would be useful.

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