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Studies investigate the effect of statins on cognition

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In 2012, The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning linking the use of statins to memory loss and confusion unrelated to dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.  Because of that warning, some experts recommended against the use of statins for the approximately 30 million, mostly older Americans, using statins to control cholesterol levels.  However, new research suggests that that warning may have been premature.   An extensive Johns Hopkins review of dozens of studies found that the use of statins posed no threat to short-term memory and that statins may even reduce the risk of dementia if taken for more than one year.   The findings were published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in October 2013.

Statins reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol that can build up as plaque inside blood vessels.  The result is that the drugs reduce the amount of inflammation within blood vessels and prevent the risk of blood clots, thereby reducing the incidences of coronary artery disease and stroke.

A second study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in November 2013 also reviewed controlled trials and concurred.  That study found that “Published data do not suggest an adverse effect of statins on cognition; however, the strength of available evidence is limited, particularly with regard to high-dose statins.”

The evidence appears to suggest that the benefits of taking statins outweigh the possible risks.  Researchers found that those cases where individuals experienced cognitive loss related to statin use were rare and reversible.  Patients should speak with their doctors about their current medications and any complications those medications might have on their mental health.


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