If you’re considering taking a “statin” drug—or you are on one already—you may have questions. These drugs are very good at lowering cholesterol and can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.
But there have been reports of memory problems with the medications. In 2012, the FDA updated its safety information for statins to include memory loss and confusion as possible side effects. Some people fear that statin drugs can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia.
The latest news should put these fears to rest. It comes from a new study in the journal Neuroepidemiology. It included 30 other large studies and looked at more than 9 million people. The research found that statins did not increase the risk of dementia. In fact these medications decreased it. So taking a statin may help both your heart and your mind.
Previous research showed similar results. In a 2013 study, Johns Hopkins researchers looked at 41 studies that monitored 23,000 people for memory problems for up to 25 years. The result? There was no evidence that statins caused dementia and some evidence that they prevented memory loss.
Doctors aren’t sure how statins might protect the brain. They may help the same way that they help the blood vessels that feed the heart—by reducing inflammation and the buildup of plaque that prevents blood from flowing. Some forms of dementia are caused by similar blockages in the blood vessels of the brain.
If you experience confusion or memory problems while you are on a statin, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it instead of stopping the statin. Sometimes memory issues can be related to other medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and antihistamines. Certain combinations of drugs may also cause confusion.
Memory problems can also result from other health conditions. These include poor sleep, depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, and a lack of some B vitamins. Your doctor can help you tease out what is behind your memory loss and get a handle on it.
To keep your mind strong, follow these steps:
- Get regular exercise
Walking, jogging, or cycling 30-45 minutes, 5 times a week or longer helps build a better body—and brain.
- Give your mind a workout
Try doing crossword puzzles or learning something new, such as a new language.
- Get proper sleep
Around 7½ to 8 hours of sleep a night are usually enough to keep your brain healthy—and your heart will benefit, too.
- Spend time with others
Get together with friends and family on a regular basis.
- Eat a healthy diet
Lean towards fish and poultry for protein, lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive and other “good” oils, and low-fat dairy to stay healthy, body and mind!