It may be worth remembering to take that cholesterol pill - while you still can. An observational study that reviewed 1,674 Mexican-Americans, who were over the age of 60 and free of dementia, found those taking a statin were less likely to develop dementia or CIND - cognitive impairment without dementia - by about half. The pills included Zocor, Lipitor and Pravachol.
During the five-year study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, 27 percent took a statin drug and 130 people developed dementia or cognitive impairment. The Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging, or SALSA, was designed to examine whether vascular and lifestyle risk factors increase the risk of dementia and decline in cognitive and physical functioning.
The researchers tracked statin use by doing a medicine cabinet inventory and controlled for such risk factors a history of smoking, diabetes, stroke and whether the people had a gene thought to be a predictor of dementia. Their conclusion, which was published in Neurology, is that the results add to the emerging evidence suggesting a protective effect of statin use on cognitive outcomes
However, the lead researcher cautions that no one should rush to their doctor and demand a prescription for a statin in hopes of preventing memory loss. For one, most of the randomized clinical trials that were conducted to gauge statin use for Alzheimer's didn't find any evidence, says Mary Haan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.
"There's no evidence, at this point anyway, that statins can stop the progression of dementia or reverse it. This observational study shows statins may be useful in preventing the development of this disease, but there are a lot of questions not answered." Such as? Which type of statin would be better, since some cross the brain-blood barrier, and how they may work to affect dementia, she says.
"This does point twoard a benefit for prevention, but there's never been a primary prevention trial in relation to any cognitive or dementia outocme," Haan continues. "And there are enough side effects and there's the cost (of the drugs). So I don't think it would be wise to jump in and say let's start treating people with this. I do think doctors should do more screening for cognitive functioning."