Statin use in older age has no effect on memory decline

18 November 2019

Australian researchers have found that taking statins doesn’t affect memory and thinking in later life. There is also no effect on brain size between statin users and those who don’t take the drugs. The scientific publication Journal of the American College of Cardiology announced the results today (Monday 18 November).

What are statins?

Statins are drugs that can help lower the level of “bad cholesterol” in the body.

What did the researchers do?

The Australian researchers looked at study volunteers between the ages of 70 and 90. They measured the volunteer’s performance on memory and thinking tests. The scientists also looked at the volunteer’s brain volume, as well as recording if they took statins.

Researchers followed the study volunteers for six years. After considering other risk factors for dementia, the researchers found that taking statins was not linked with a faster decline in memory and thinking.

In a smaller group of people who started taking statins during the study, researchers found memory and thinking loss was reduced

What our expert said

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Statins are drugs commonly prescribed to help reduce cholesterol in the blood and have a number of heart-health benefits. This research conducted in elderly people, finds that overall, statins had no negative effect on memory and thinking, and this is reassuring for statin users.


“While this research found a slower decline in certain memory and thinking skills in a small group of people who began taking statins, this doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to recommend statin treatment as a way to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s.


“Evidence suggests tackling high cholesterol, particularly in midlife, can help to support a healthy brain as well as a healthy heart. Those concerned about their cholesterol level or the medication they are on should speak to their doctor.


“As well as keeping cholesterol in check, drinking within recommended guidelines, staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, and controlling blood pressure are all things we can do to keep our brains healthy as we age.”


American College of Cardiology: Statin use in the elderly: memory, cognition and brain volume changes over 6 years