Statins May Not Curb Alzheimer’s Risk
Debate Continues About Whether Cholesterol-Cutting Statin Drugs Help Ward Off Alzheimer’s Disease
Jan. 16, 2008 — Taking statin drugs, which lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, may not make Alzheimer’s disease less likely after all.
Here’s a quick recap of previous studies on the topic. Some show that Alzheimer’s disease is rarer in people who take statins. But not so in other studies. Statins aren’t made to curb Alzheimer’s disease, and they’re not prescribed for Alzheimer’s prevention.
The latest report, published online today in Neurology, sides with studies showing no connection between statin use and avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. But the findings have some fine print.
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
High Cholesterol Is Beneficial
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.
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Tracking Alzheimer’s And Statins
The study included 929 U.S. Catholic nuns, priests, and brothers enrolled in the Religious Orders Study, which tracked new cases of Alzheimer’s disease among the group.
When the study started, participants were 75 years old on average and didn’t have Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Few of them — 13% — were taking statins.
Participants got checkups and took mental skills tests every year for up to 12 years. During that time, 191 of them developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking statin drugs didn’t affect the odds of getting Alzheimer’s disease or milder mental decline. Also, statins didn’t affect Alzheimer’s-related brain plaque, according to autopsies conducted on participants who died during the study.
The study’s strengths include its long, detailed look at Alzheimer’s disease. But it also has limits, note the Rush University researchers, who included Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, MS.
With few statin users, it may have been hard to spot any protective effects from statins. And it’s not clear if the results apply to other groups of people.
SOURCES: Arvanitakis, Z. Neurology, Jan. 16, 2008 advance onlineedition. WebMD Medical News: “Statins May Cut Alzheimer’s Disease.”WebMD Medical News: “Statins May Not Fight Dementia.” News release,American Academy of Neurology.
How Can Statins Both Increase And Decrease Risk
A group of researchers from Denver have recently tried to explain how statins could be both helpful and harmful.1 They note that statins, like other medications that affect metabolism in complex ways, act through more than one mechanism. Statins decrease cholesterol, and that may be an important reason for their cardiovascular benefits. Statin use reduces stroke risk and their cerebrovascular benefits may be important in reducing dementia. There may be additional effects beyond cholesterol reduction as well. Studies have suggested that atorvastatin, for example, can reduce -amyloid production, reduce vascular inflammation, protect endothelial cell function and reduce brain ischemia.
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Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment
This guide from Harvard Medical School explores the subtle differences between various forms of memory problems, breaks down the different types of MCI, and explains brain function and its role in creating and retrieving memories. You will learn the causes and risk factors for MCI, what doctors look for when diagnosing the condition, and medical as well as natural ways to treat or even prevent it.
- Risk factors for MCI and dementia
- Evaluating MCI
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Study Design And Variables
A subset of 1,959,483 patients with non-melanoma skin cancer was selected from the Humana dataset. The statin exposure group is defined as patients with a medication charge for any of the HMGCR inhibitors . The non-statin exposure group are the patients without any medication charges for the above drugs. The outcome variable was defined as the occurrence of the first NDD diagnosis for each outcome of interest based on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision , Clinical Modification and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Procedure Coding System codes in the patient’s medical claims data. NDD includes AD, dementia, MS, PD, and ALS . Age in the statin exposure group is defined by the age at diagnosis of first statin exposure. Following the analysis in Branigan et al., an analysis of comorbidities known to be associated with NDD outcomes was conducted .
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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.
Cholesterol Particle Size Matters
Unfortunately, most doctors worry more about patients cholesterol numbers than their overall health.
Testing for HDL cholesterol or LDL cholesterol levels is overly simplistic.
One test that does seem to provide good information about your risk for heart disease is to measure LDL particle size.
Large LDL molecules just move through the bloodstream, doing no harm.
But small LDL molecules are caused by oxidation and are dangerous.
Chronic inflammation promotes every known degenerative disease.
It causes microinjuries to your arteries, causing problematic plaque formation.
Free radicals are unattached oxygen molecules that attack your cells in much the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust.
They also attack LDL cholesterol transforming it from large to small LDL particles.
The stress hormone cortisol contributes to heart disease by increasing triglycerides and blood pressure, two common risk factors.
Stress also contributes to plaque deposits in the arteries.
A 15-year study found there to be a strong correlation between sugar consumption and death from heart disease.
Sugar promotes inflammation, raises blood pressure, and stimulates the liver to dump harmful fats into the bloodstream.
Trans fats are unhealthy fats found in processed foods.
They increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, increase inflammation, and raise triglyceride levels.
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The Negative Effects Of Statins On The Brain
02/04/2019 / By Tracey Watson
Statin drugs, prescribed by doctors to reduce high cholesterol levels and supposedly prevent heart attacks and strokes, are the second most prescribed drugs in the world, after the painkiller hydrocodone. Since one in five Americans between the ages of 40 and 75 take these drugs regularly, it is likely that you are acquainted with at least one person who is doing so.
Nonetheless, even though doctors hand out statins like candy, several studies have confirmed that they carry serious side effects. And the vast majority of patients are blissfully unaware of just how dangerous and indeed, ineffective they are.
One of the greatest concerns raised by experts is the potential for statins to cause damage to the brain, triggering memory loss and dementia.
Do Statins Increase Or Decrease The Risk For Dementia
Christopher Labos, MD, CM, MSc
The other day I was emailed a link by a long-time statin user, concerned about reports that statins increase the risk for dementia. Unfortunately, stories that statins can cause dementia or memory loss have been with us almost since the drugs were first put on the market. In fact, worries that cholesterol-lowering medication could affect brain function predate statins by decades and seem to reappear with minor modifications every few years or so. But the real reason why such reports should not cause undue worry is that they rely on something that has led many researchers down blind alleys over the years: surrogate endpoints.
Interestingly, the worry that cholesterol might affect neurocognitive function dates back to one of the earliest cholesterol trials, the Coronary Primary Prevention Trial, which tested cholestyramine vs placebo. While the drug was associated with reduced cardiovascular events, there was also an increased risk for violent death by suicide, accident, or homicide. Some worried that statins were reducing cholesterol levels to such a degree that there was insufficient cholesterol left for brain cells to function normally, leading to increased rates of depression or altered behavior, and therefore suicide or accidental death. Why this would make one more prone to death by homicide was never entirely clear.
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The Reason Doctors Push Statins
All of this information may leave you bewildered why doctors prescribe statin drugs at all.
The answer isnt pretty.
One study found that doctors often dont report statin side effects because they dont believe their patients and/or they dont believe theres a correlation between the two.
Harvard Medical School professor Jerry Avorn, MD, revealed in a Washington Post interview that:
We already know that there is horrendous underreporting of side effects. Ninety to 99 percent of serious side effects are not reported by doctors.
Pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in continuing to promote this multibillion-dollar industry.
Right now, one in five US adults use statins.
Recently, the American Heart Association released new guidelines that, if followed, could double the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
You do the math.
The drive to increase the number of people placed on statins is working. According to GoodRx.com, the statin drug Lipitor is currently the #1 selling drug in the US.
You may think that the side effects of statin may be worth it if they significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, but their ability to prevent heart disease is widely overblown.
According to the latest research published in the British Medical Journal, the supposed benefits of statins are small and uncertain and the indiscriminate use of statins for heart disease prevention is a waste of healthcare resources.
Exposure: Assessment Of Statin Use
NHI prescription records include the date, dosage, duration, and generic names for all medications. To reflect changes in the use of statin over time , statin use was defined as a time-varying variable for every 2-year time window from 2002200345. To reflect cumulative exposure to statins, we used two definitions for statin exposure: days of statin prescription and cumulative defined daily dose during each 2-year time window. Days of statin prescription was defined as the total number of days of statin prescription regardless of dosage or intensity. The cDDD was defined as the summation of total DDD and was considered not only the number of prescription days, but also the dosage and therapeutic intensity of the drug.
To examine the doseresponse relationship, we categorized days of statin prescription and cDDD into five groups:< 90, 90180, 180365, 365540, and540 days and cDDD considering the distribution of statin use. Based on this definition, a larger number of days of statin prescription and cDDD can be regarded as markers of persistent and adherent use of statin therapy .
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It Was Found That Alzheimers Patients Have Only 1/6 Of The Concentration Of Free Fatty Acids In The Cerebrospinal Fluid Compared To Individuals Without Alzheimers Disease
In parallel, it is becoming very clear that cholesterol is pervasive in the brain, and that it plays a critical role both in nerve transport in the synapse and in maintaining the health of the myelin sheath coating nerve fibers.
An extremely high-fat diet has been found to improve cognitive ability in Alzheimers patients. These and other observations described below lead me to conclude that both a low-fat diet and statin drug treatment increase susceptibility to Alzheimers disease.
Alzheimers is a devastating disease that takes away the mind bit by bit over a period of decades. It begins as odd memory gaps but then steadily erodes your life to the point where around-the-clock care is the only option. With severe Alzheimers, you can easily wander off and get lost, and may not even recognize your own daughter. Alzheimers was a little known disease before 1960, but today it threatens to completely derail the health system in the United States.
Just between 2000 and 2006, US Alzheimers deaths rose by 47%, while, by comparison, deaths from heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and stroke combined by 11%. This increase goes far beyond people living longer: for people 85 and older, the percentage who died from Alzheimers rose by 30% between 2000 and 2005. Finally, its likely these are under-estimates, as many people suffering with Alzheimers ultimately die of something else. You likely have a close friend or relative who is suffering from Alzheimers.
Healthy Heart Healthy Brain
On the surface, it seems intuitive that statins would reduce the risk of cognitive problems, because many treatments that help your heart can also help your brain, says Dr. Manson. Conversely, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease, as well as for a condition called vascular dementia, in which impaired blood flow to the brain leads to cognitive changes.
“Statins also decrease inflammation, which has been implicated in Alzheimers disease and some other forms of dementia,” says Dr. Manson.
Although it seems to make sense that statins would bring brain benefits, the research doesnt always bear that out.
“While you would expect that statin use would reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia because statins lower cardiovascular risks and the risk of stroke, it hasnt been clearly shown to be the case,” says Dr. Manson. “Its surprising that theres not a clearer reduction seen. If anything, some of these studies have raised concerns about cognitive risks.”
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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.
- Of all the people who are hospitalized for a heart attack, only 25% have high cholesterol.
- The other 75% have normal cholesterol.
Clearly, high cholesterol is not the risk factor weve been led to believe.