A review of evidence on the use of statins has concluded that the drugs may be able to reduce the risk of dementia. The meta-analysis, from researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, is published on Tuesday 1 October in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings online.
The team set out to investigate evidence from research on the use of statins in light of recent reports that these drugs may cause short-term problems with memory and thinking skills. Because some studies have also shown a link between long-term use of statins and a lower risk of dementia, the researchers carried out two separate evidence reviews:
• the first looking at research into the short-term effects of statins on memory
• the second looking at the long-term effects of statins on dementia risk
For the review into the short-term effects of statins, the researchers identified three clinical trials for inclusion. The results of these three studies suggested there was no adverse effect on memory following short-term use of statins.
For their review on dementia risk, the researchers included eight studies that followed a total of 23,443 people. The studies included lasted for varying lengths of time, with the shortest study lasting three years and the longest lasting 24 years. While three of the studies made no link between the use of statins and the risk of dementia, the other five found that people who used statins were less likely to develop the condition.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This type of analysis is a very useful way of pulling together the best available evidence on a topic, but it’s still not possible to conclusively know from this review whether statins could prevent dementia. Although research has shown that controlling cholesterol levels may lower the risk of dementia, large clinical trials have so far been unable to show that statins can prevent the condition. Anyone who is worried about their memory, or wants to know whether they should be taking statins, should talk to their doctor.
“There is currently no certain way to prevent dementia, and it’s vital to continue investing in research to find much-needed preventions for the condition. In the meantime, the best evidence suggests that the risk of the condition can be reduced by eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, keeping blood pressure in check, and not smoking.”