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Brain & Spine Health | Heart & Vascular Health | Heart News
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Statins Don’t Cause Memory Loss, Study Reaffirms

Statins lower bad cholesterol, prevent plaque formation

Statins are some of the drugs most often prescribed in the United States. They are an effective tool in the prevention of stroke and heart disease, but last year, stories circulating in the media about statins and memory loss caused confusion among patients.

A recent, comprehensive review of multiple studies failed to find evidence that statins cause memory loss. In fact, some studies indicate that statins can even have memory-protective effects.

Initial concerns raised

Confusion and concern among patients arose last year after stories surfaced about statin takers who said that their mental sharpness declined after starting the drug.

Following these reports, the FDA mandated that labeling on statins must include information about possible links between statin use and memory loss.

After the FDA ruling, several studies, including two large, randomized trials, found no evidence that linked statin use to memory problems. Steven Nissen, MD, chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, concurs. “Cognitive side effects have not been detected in randomized controlled trials of statin therapy.”

Despite the evidence, some patients still were concerned and uncertain about whether to continue their statin medication.

Statistical analysis: statins don’t cause memory deficits

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University performed a comprehensive review of 12 published studies on statins in which information on short-term memory was available and published their findings in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The good news: there was no evidence that short-term use of statins hurts memory and cognition.

The better news: long-term statin use can have a protective effect on memory and cognition.

Studies on short-term use showed no difference in memory function between those people who took statins and people who did not take statins (placebo group), with both groups having normal cognitive function at the start of the trials.

Following an analysis of long-term statin use trials results, researchers found no link whatsoever between the use of statins and increased risk of dementia. The study included more than 23,000 participants and studies published over seven years.

Five studies actually showed a protective effect of long-term statin use on memory and cognition. Dr. Nissen did not participate in the study but reviewed it, and says that intuitively this finding makes sense. “Statins work to lower blood lipids and prevent the buildup of unstable plaque, and we understand that keeping the blood vessels that supply the brain clear and free is important in preventing cognitive decline and in the prevention of stroke. It makes sense that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain,” he says.

Conclusions and confidence

Statins are memory-safe, as shown by multiple rigorous studies and meta-analysis. Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, head of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, says, “Randomized clinical trials examining statin usage in dementia or pre-dementia show — if anything — a significant protective effect. That does not mean that some people, on an individual basis, may not note memory issues on statins…if it happens, we adjust regimen for lipid lowering accordingly.”

As is the case with any medication, statins can cause side effects. In general, statins are well tolerated, safe and effective. Patients should feel confident that statins do not hurt their memory or mental sharpness, “and even the warnings about muscle aches and diabetes need to be weighed against the fact that the drugs are proven to lower risk for heart attack and stroke,” emphasizes Dr. Nissen.

As Dr. Hazen summarizes, “Statins still are the single most effective interventions for preventing cardiovascular disease and saving lives.”

Chat live with our doctors 

Still have questions about statins? Chat live with Steven Nissen, MD and Michael Rocco, MD on Wednesday Dec 18 at 11:30am (EST) during our live Spreecast video chat. The doctors will be discussing the new cardiovascular prevention guidelines. Register Now.

Tags: heart disease, memory loss, statins
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We welcome your comments. However, we cannot provide a medical opinion without an in-person consultation. To learn about Cleveland Clinic services available to you, please fill out our WebMail form.
  • Doogie Houge

    Of course not, imagine the money they’re making.

  • Hants Hippy

    They caused me such bad memory loss that I couldn’t remember my family’s names, how to use a knife and fork or how to drive my car!!

    • Cary

      Sounds like Demensia, look it up, do research on that!!! Good luck to you.

  • Lois Parker

    I’ve been on Crestor for many years. Have had two open heart surgeries and two knee replacements. I blamed the weakness and pain I was having on my heart. After the last surgery my urine turned orange/copper color, I became dehydrated, fever, headache, pain in all joints and muscles and extremely weak. Blood work showed liver and kidney changes. I had ALL the bad side effects that was listed. It took me myself to stop the drug. I will never take another statin drug. The stomach pain and diarrhea was overwhelming.

  • Jerry

    The problem people have nowadays is believing their Providers. There have been so many articles about the collusion between Big Pharma and Providers. This is the main issue that you should address. Most people really believe that there is Collusion between Big Pharma or big money–FDA– Providers and they have good reason to.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      Jerry – thank you for your comment. We will look to address this in another blog story. betsyRN

  • Tris

    The Pharmaceutical Companies must be paying John Hopkins the big bucks!! Statins cause memory loss and it is NOT reversible. My Mother has Dementia because of Stains. Greed is a terrible thing when these companies begin lying to the public. It disgusts me!!!

  • Tris

    The statins remove fat from your arteries to lower cholesterol and they are also removing fat from the brain!!! We need fat in the brain. THIS IS COMMON SENSE. If statins were taken off the market, what would Big Pharma do and what would the Universities doing studies do? ANSWER:NOT MAKE MONEY!!! Greed GREED GREED!!!! God don’t sleep!! And shame on the Doctors prescribing statins. As soon as memory loss was discovered due to statins, John Hopkins, Big Pharma , etc. had to step in and protect their money!!! Started doing studies to protect themselves!!! How about teaching patients about diet and exercise and quit going for the “quick fix” of popping pills!!!

  • Beatriss

    BULL$hit CLEVELAND CLINIC

  • c0gn0menDavid Graham Jones

    This article mentions there were 12 studies, if you read further they actually started with 41 studies. Is that cherry picking? Doesn’t really matter where the money came from for this “comprehensive review”, who paid for the research done in the 12 studies.

  • valjo

    I just went through a trip to the ER with memory loss and cognitive disruption that mirrored a stroke. After CT scan and tests was sent home and told to watch my blood pressure and see my GP. The next day the symptoms worsened even though my blood pressure was normal. Had trouble understanding what was being said on the television. Somehow I caught a commercial on statins with warning of mental confusion. Checked the internet and realized that I had all the symptoms of headache, dizziness, mental confusion, increase in urinating, etc. My doctor had doubled my statin prescription 10 days prior. I discontinued use and am better, but still have cognitive problems. I’m sure the researchers would say that my info is anticdotal (SP), but unless you live through this, you have absolutely no idea!

  • Adam

    I was never aware that there was any connection or discussion about statins and memory loss is until now. I started statins about four months ago and have had serious memory losses in grew concerned about my mental sharpness: so much so, that I googled memory loss and simvastatin. I can share with the other readers that the only thing that changed in the last three or four months is the addition of simvastatin and I am now going to speak to my healthcare provider about lowering the dose or discontinuing it all together. Again, I never knew a connection even existed and I was only searching for possible reasons why this sudden decline in cognitive skills. I’m i’m only 49 so don’t jump on the dementia or Alzheimer’s bandwagon; i’m not inclined toward conspiracy theory with doctors and drug companies, I’m just objectively and empirically sharing my own personal experience. Stop Simvastatinthis evening will see what happens in the next couple of days.