Do Statins Cause Dementia?

Written by Being Patient

About one in four Americans over 40 take drugs called statins, which lower levels of cholesterol, to help prevent cardiovascular disease. You might recognize some of these drug names if you or someone you know has high cholesterol: Lipitor, Lescol XL, Altoprev, Livalo…

These statins prevent cholesterol build-up in blood vessels and arteries, which in turn lowers blood pressure, and helps prevent stroke or heart attack. But a smaller group of researchers believe that statins may cause cognitive impairment or dementia due to their ability to cross into the brain. But is there evidence that statins actually cause cognitive decline? 

According to Dr. Heather Ferris, an endocrinologist and scientist at the University of Virginia, said concerns over the link between statins and dementia are overblown and can actually cause harm to patients. “I can’t tell you how much time we spend as physicians trying to get cardiac patients back on their statins because of the clickbait they read,” she told Being Patient. 

Statins are known to have occasional cognitive side effects like memory loss and confusion but there is no evidence that these effects are long-lasting. “These symptoms are immediate and reverse with stopping the medication,” Ferris told Being Patient.

Ferris cited a clinical study that found taking statins daily had no impact on cognition for these patients. Additionally, one of the largest statins studies to date looked at a number of double-blind, controlled trials lasting longer than a year and found no difference in cognitive side effects compared to the placebo group.

There is also a growing body of evidence that statins might have additional neuroprotective effects. Research shows that high levels of cholesterol as well as abnormalities in cholesterol processing in the brain can increase Alzheimer’s risk. On top of that, some statins may be able to cross into the brain and disrupt its cholesterol metabolism to reduce cholesterol levels. 

So, can statins cause memory problems or dementia? The claims of this relationship are incredibly strange. 

The bottom line: Ferris and colleagues say, patients should skip the clickbait and stick with their prescribed statin regimen. Studies are underway to determine if some of the statins that can cross into the brain may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


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Melissa Belardo, APRN

Clinical Investigator

Melissa Belardo, is a certified family nurse practitioner (FNP-BC), joins K2 Medical Research with more than a decade of clinical experience. She has served as an investigator in over 20 trials. Prior to clinical research, she held roles in gastroenterology, hepatology, and nurse education.

Melissa’s academic background includes a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Adventist University, followed by a master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner from Georgetown University.

Melissa is a native of the US Virgin Islands’ and is fluent in both English and Spanish; Melissa has lived in central Florida for the past twenty years. When she’s not at work, you can find her volunteering at her local church and spending time with family.