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No link between statins and memory loss: research

A new Australian study has found that, contrary to popular belief, cholesterol lowering drugs statins do not cause memory loss and may in fact slow cognitive decline.

More than 1,000 elderly individuals were assessed over a period of six years by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW Sydney.

Statins are widely prescribed to people with heart disease or high cholesterol to reduce the risk of future heart disease events but partly due to reports of cognitive decline “up to half the individuals prescribed statin therapy do not fill their prescription,” said first author Professor Katherine Samaras.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

The study looked at changes in the brain of the 1,037 participants, measuring five areas of cognition using 13 different tests and MRI scans of the brain over six years. Surprisingly, the team found that for 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 Samaras.

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