Do Statins Cause Memory Loss?


I've been embarrassed before by incidents like this week's. Throughout my adult life, when friends mentioned details from a play or movie we'd recently seen, I’d often draw a blank. Same with books. I’d be stymied to name my 15 most favorite books—a question that’s been making the rounds on social media for a while. I might have trouble simply listing any 15 books I've read.

After the incident this week, I half-jokingly told a friend I needed to find a study that showed you can lose your memory without losing your mind. Then I remembered (!) a bit of information I’d encountered during my research about statins, a medication I’d been taking for a long time to help keep my cholesterol in check. I discovered that memory loss was just one of the drug’s side effects, and I decided to finally ditch the pills. See Bye-Bye to My Statins.

I've done some additional research, and here's what I found:

The FDA mandates risk warning on labels

Since 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required that statin labels include a warning that some people have developed memory loss or confusion while taking statins—a conclusion based on various databases of bad reactions to drugs, and also statin clinical trials that included assessments of cognitive function.

The reports about memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion apply to all statin products and all age groups. However, the FDA also indicates that cognition problems are rare, and that symptoms generally disappear a few weeks after stopping treatment.

Hmmm, I remember the plot of the play I saw at Studio Theatre last week, but don't ask me for the title of the play or the author's name. It's been about two weeks since I stopped taking pravastatin.

Dr. Sidney M. Wolf, director of Public Citizen's health research group, is among those who think statins are overused. He said the FDA's new risk alerts provided more reasons that otherwise healthy people with cholesterol levels less than 240 "should not be taking these drugs."

The elderly are more at risk

This past June, an Australian study found that elderly statin users showed significantly greater decline in memory scores than their peers not taking the drug.

Researchers conducted psychometric testing on 377 subjects aged 70-90 who’d been taking statins for two to 20 years. Those assessments were repeated two and four years later. The team performed the same tests and assessments on 301 patients who had not taken the drug.

The analysis controlled for age, sex, education, smoking, the presence of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and the presence of apolipoprotein E e4 genotype [APOEe4], which increases Alzheimer’s risk.

The Australian scientists found a significantly greater decline in memory scores among statin users on both the two- and four-year tests. But statin use was not associated with greater declines in other cognitive functions like language, visuospatial function, processing, processing speed, or executive function.

This was just the study report I was hoping to find! It is possible for me to lose my memory but not my mind.

Dissenting opinions

I’ll include the following information if only to pretend I'm being objective.

Other researchers have found no connection between statins and memory loss.

A recent review of earlier research found no evidence that statin use decreases brain power. On the contrary, this study found that statins might actually decrease dementia risk—a conclusion the researchers offered tentatively.

Guess which side of this debate I'm on?

Washington, DC, resident John Schappi blogs about aging, exercise, diet, pills, supplements, and his life with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. Once upon a time, he was addicted to nicotine, alcohol and sex. These days, his passions include gardening, playing bridge, meditating, going to the theater and traveling.

Aging, Parkinson’s, and Me

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When my husband was first thought to have dementia, 8 years ago, I asked if it could be the Statin he was on, Dr said, stop the Statin for three weeks and let's see if there's a difference, there definitely was, my husband sprang right back to the way he was prior to the med. Six months later, Heart Dr at Bethesda put him back on a Statin as he had confirmed A-Fib, I balked at it, but we tried, memory again sank, Dr changed the Brand, same memory loss problems. He is 83 in late stage 6 Alzheimer's, most people would not even know it, he can read anything, punctuating and discussing what he read, now the Doctors want to rethink what part the Statins had in this, just last week his Dr sent for the PET scan disk done last year at Bethesda, a team of Drs are now interested in this, as they have never seen a late stage patient with the abilities my husband has remaining in his brain. let's hope this starts the ball rolling, way too much money being made on these meds. I personally stopped taking them.
This info doesn't surprise me. I have high cholesterol but saw a show where a famous TV doctor had on two heart doctors who indicated that they do not prescribe statins to female patients. One of the things statins do is increase your risk for diabetes. I know this first hand as I had a blood test while taking the statins and had a "prediabetes" score for my blood sugar. I then saw the show, heard the info, and stopped taking my statins. A couple of months later, I had the blood work done again and while my LDL/HDL levels changed for the worse, I had a perfect blood sugar score. So you might want to add this to the list of reasons why a statin may not be for you. I'd rather risk the odds of having high cholesterol than dealing with diabetes. The guest doctor on TV said that the statins don't help if you haven't had a heart attack. He only prescribes them after a woman has had one.
Reverse, my doctor says that my cholesterol is based on Lifestyle/Hereditary. It is NOT based on food because that comes out on my lab work as perfect. He told me that I can eat all the right food but it will not lower my high cholesterol. To lower it, I would need to EXERCISE daily - at least 30 minutes a day.

Because I was caregiving 2 bedridden parents, and my doc insisted I exercise, the only way to do it was after work. But, I can't do that if I come home to do my shift of caregiving. So, fave sis got me an electric treadmill and we installed it in the bedroom. I didn't really use it because mom had needed constant suctioning or else she would choke to death. I ended up using the treadmill's handles to hang all my purses, and the treadmill floor as my storage for boxes. 2 days ago, I cleared it out and I'm now going to use it daily - 30 minutes a day. Day 1, I only did 12 minutes. Last night, 30 minutes. I just got another baby monitor - hopefully this is better reception than the first one I bought. I need to hear well thru the monitor while I'm in my bedroom using the treadmill. Dad would be all by himself in the livingroom. That treadmill is a bit noisy. I have to make the TV volume loud in order to hear the show while simultaneously reading a book, and listening out to father. That was how i was able to get to 30 minutes. TV alone was sooooo boring.

Are you able to find an exercise bike or a treadmill to bring in to your home? These things cost so much but would be worth it if it will help to lower your cholesterol. Eating habits are important. When I was driving home today, I also decided that I will start to eat a fruit every day. Since I don't like bananas, I will eat apples and grapes. Tonight, I forced myself to eat sardines. Trying to eat healthy....even though my doc said that it won't lower MY cholesterol.