A new study finds a commonly used cholesterol-fighting class of drugs may protect against dementia and memory loss.
“After accounting for other key predictors of dementia, we found that statin users were about half as likely to develop dementia as those who did not take them,” said study author Mary N. Haan, DrPH, with the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.
The study is published in the July 29, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
For the study, researchers enrolled 1,674 Mexican Americans over the age of 60 who were free of dementia.
“Our participants were fairly typical older people with lots of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease,” said Haan. “Until our study enrolled them, they had never had their memory tested.”
During the five-year study, 27 percent took a statin drug. A total of 130 people developed dementia or cognitive impairment.
Scientists controlled for a number of other dementia risk factors, such as education, a history of smoking, diabetes, stroke and whether the people had a gene thought to be a predictor of dementia.
“We aren’t suggesting that people should take statins unless they are necessary for other reasons. We hope this study and others like it will open the door to trials that would test the ability of statins to prevent dementia and other types of cognitive impairment,” said Haan.
“Health care providers should consider testing their older patients with diabetes or hypertension for cognitive impairment and memory loss.”
Statins included in the study were atorvastatin, cerivastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvavstatin and simvastatin. The most common side effects of statins are headaches, nausea, fever and muscle pain.
Source: American Academy of Neurology