Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Another benefit of statins? Not so fast...
This morning, you may read or hear about statin medications (cholesterol-lowering drugs) being shown to ward off Alzheimer's disease. While this could be welcome news for the millions who are at risk of developing the disease, I am urging caution. True, there is some older research that shows people who take statins may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's dementia. But when we investigated, we found that other touted studies like ACT, the Adult Changes in Thought study, found no apparent real benefit of statin medications on Alzheimer's dementia.
So, why all the fuss? A new study, which was supported by the National Institute on Aging, looked at the brains of people who had received statin medications and those who did not. More specifically, the researchers examined the brains of 110 people aged 65 to 79 after they died. They did find fewer of the tangles and plaques that are so often thought to be a sign of the memory-robbing Alzheimer's disease.
Still, no doctor is likely to be ready to prescribe statin simply for the purpose of preventing dementia. There are a few reasons. First of all, this study was rather small and it also wasn't randomized, meaning a population of people on statins wasn't directly compared with a group not on the medications. It is also important to remember that statin medications, like any drug, could have side effects. Some of the ones to watch out for are muscle pain, liver problems and nausea.
Statin medications are a multibillion dollar business. It seems the makers of these drugs are constantly coming up with new uses for them. What are your experiences with these medications? Did they work and did you experience any side effects? Would you take them to try to prevent Alzheimer's dementia?
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