According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 10 million new cases of dementia are reported each year, with limited treatment options available. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. Vascular dementia, caused by blocked blood vessels in the brain, is the second most common type. Interestingly, high cholesterol levels have been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, particularly in men.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, aimed to investigate the impact of statin use on cognition in older adults with dementia. The study analyzed data from the Swedish Registry for Cognitive/Dementia Disorders and included 15,586 individuals diagnosed with different forms of dementia, with an average age of 79.5 years. Out of these individuals, 10,869 were taking statins. The researchers followed the patients until death, emigration, or the end of the follow-up period, collecting data from 2007 onwards.
The study found that statin users who took one defined daily dose of statins, on average, had higher scores on cognitive tests after three years of follow-up compared to non-statin users. The specific type of statin taken by the participants also influenced the results, with simvastatin, the most commonly prescribed statin in Sweden at the time, associated with the highest increase in cognitive scores. The study concluded that statins are safe for older patients with dementia and do not contribute to cognitive decline.
Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, highlighted the importance of further research comparing different types of statins. He suggested that long-term follow-up studies comparing the effectiveness of rosuvastatin, simvastatin, and atorvastatin could help determine if one statin is more beneficial in preventing memory loss than another. Dr. Segil also emphasized the need to understand how statins affect cholesterol levels, brain cholesterol, and brain connectivity, as well as how these effects may change with short or long-term treatment. Additionally, the role of different genotypes, such as the ApoE4 allele, in the response to statin treatment should be considered.
Dr. Sara Garcia-Ptacek, the lead researcher and author of the study, highlighted the need for future studies to confirm the hypothesis that acute changes, such as those in brain cholesterol levels, could potentially cause confusion in some individuals while having long-term protective effects. She also stressed the importance of conducting targeted clinical trials to determine which patients may benefit from statin treatment. Understanding how statins affect different genotypes and brain connectivity will be crucial in designing effective treatments for dementia.
In conclusion, the study conducted by researchers in Sweden provides further evidence supporting the potential beneficial effects of statins in improving cognitive function in older adults with dementia. However, more research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms and to determine the specific factors that may influence the effectiveness of different types of statins.