Statins may lower dementia risk

Statins may do more than help lower cholesterol. They may also help reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and University of Arizona found commonly-prescribed statins can decrease onset of Alzheimer’s disease and that decrease varied by usage, sex and race/ethnicity. Their findings were published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

“We may not need to wait for a cure to make a difference for patients currently at risk of the disease,” said lead author Julie Zissimpoulos, associate director of the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and assistant professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy in a press release. “Existing drugs, alone or in combination, may affect Alzheimer’s risk.”

Researchers studied a sample of nearly 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were divided into two groups: high-use beneficiaries – those who took statins for two years or more between 2006 and 2008 – and low-use beneficiaries who took them less frequently or who started taking statins after 2008. Both sets of beneficiaries were in similar health and had no diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers studied records from 2009 to 2013. They found high-use beneficiaries had a lower risk of onset compared with low-use. Among women who were high users, the incidence rate was 15 percent lower. Among men, the rate was 12 percent lower. Black men were the only group that did not show a statistically significant reduction in risk, an anomaly researchers attributed to sample size.

With regard to type of statins, researchers found:

  • Simvastatin was linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s for white women, Hispanic women and black women as well as for white men and Hispanic men.
  • Atorvastatin was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s for white women, Hispanic women, black women and Hispanic men.
  • Pravastatin and rosuvastatin results showed a significant reduction of Alzheimer’s risk for only white women. 

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Clinical