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Keep taking the tablets

January 3 2020

There is good news for the estimated 1.8m people in the UK taking drugs to lower cholesterol - they will not increase your risk of Alzheimers or other forms of dementia, according to a new study.

According to Public Health England, high cholesterol is said to account for 7.1 per cent of deaths in the country. Statins can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol in the blood.

For every 1 mmol reduction in cholesterol, the risk of a future cardiovascular event such as angina, stroke, heart attack and coronary heart disease is reduced by around 23 per cent.

In the past there have been concerns that isolated case reports of cognitive decline in statin users may herald an issue with the drug that has been safely prescribed since the 1990s.

However, a new six-year study, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found the medication did not affect the risk of dementia.

The research, carried out in Australia and led by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), UNSW Sydney, shows that not only does it not cause dementia, but also statin use is protective against memory decline in some individuals at risk of dementia.

The researchers found that in individuals with risk factors for dementia, including heart disease or diabetes, statin use slowed down cognitive decline, compared to those with the same risk factors who did not take statin medication.

In a release from the Garvan Institute, senior author Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of CHeBA, is quoted saying: “In this study our data reassuringly suggests that the use of statins to lower cholesterol levels is not likely to adversely affect memory function. Since it is an observational study, the findings should not be considered conclusive. However, the evidence is mounting that statins are safe in relation to brain health and this concern should not preclude their use in individuals who are likely to benefit from lower cholesterol levels.”

Anyone looking to reduce their cholesterol in order to boost their health, but who is not currently prescribed statins by their GP, can begin by

  • stopping smoking
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet, including at least 30g of fibre a day
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy weight and
  • limiting the amount of alcohol they consume.

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