ST. PAUL, Minn. - Commonly used cholesterol-fighting drugs called statins may protect against dementia and memory loss, according to a study published in the July 29, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"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.
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.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 21,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.