Statins can negatively impact cognitive health

Researchers find no connection between statins and cognitive health.

Washington: Amidst some existing consumer concerns that statins might pose a negative impact on an individual's cognitive health, researchers in a new study have found that it is not so.

Statins are a class of drugs that are known to cure a number of health issues including reducing illness in people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the study conducted on over 1,000 elderly individuals and assessed over six years, researchers have revealed there is no link between statin medication and cognitive decline, such as memory loss.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"We carried out the most comprehensive analysis of cognition in elderly statin users to date, and found no results to support that cholesterol-lowering statins cause memory impairment," said study's first author Professor Katherine Samaras, Head of the Clinical Obesity, Nutrition and Adipose Biology lab at the Garvan Institute and endocrinologist at St Vincent's Hospital Sydney.

"Many factors can contribute to the cognitive symptoms that isolated case reports describe. What we've come away with from this study is a reassurance for consumers to feel more confident about their statin prescription," added Samaras.

Statins are among the most widely prescribed medications, safely administered since the 1990s to treat people with heart disease or high cholesterol to reduce the risk of future heart disease events.

However, isolated case reports of cognitive decline in statin users have concerned some consumers. Up to half the individuals prescribed statin therapy do not fill their prescriptions largely due to this concern.

Researchers in the current study assessed changes to the brain in 1,037 elderly individuals, measuring five areas of cognition using 13 different tests and MRI scans of the brain, over six years.

"Controlling for important and potentially contributory factors, such as age, sex and obesity, we found no difference in the rate by which memory and other aspects of cognition changed over time, between statin users and those who had never used the medication.," explained Professor Samaras.

Further, researchers found that in individuals with risk factors for dementia, including heart disease or diabetes, statin use slowed down cognitive decline, compared to those with the same risk factors who did not take statin medication.

"Our findings demonstrate how crucial a healthy metabolism is to brain function, and how therapies can modulate this to promote healthy ageing," said Professor Samaras.

The study used data from CHeBA's Sydney Memory and Ageing Study.

Senior author Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of CHeBA, said, "Our data reassuringly suggests that the use of statins to lower cholesterol levels is not likely to adversely affect memory function."

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