Doctors often prescribe statins to people with high cholesterol in order to lower their cholesterol levels and protect their hearts. However, statins have been linked with memory loss in older individuals, especially women. Patients who suffer from statin-related memory loss are often misdiagnosed because their symptoms are similar to those involved with other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Symptoms of Memory Loss
Patients who are suffering from statin-induced memory loss may have a variety of serious symptoms. Patients often become confused or disoriented and may have trouble completing daily tasks. They may forget names or fail to recognize faces, and in some cases cholesterol-lowering drugs have caused temporary total amnesia.
This is a condition in which the person completely forgets who he is and where he is and doesn’t recognize loved ones. Memory problems may get progressively worse; in the case of total amnesia, however, the memory loss often completely disappears after 12 or more hours.
Why Memory Loss Occurs
Scientists don’t know for sure why statins cause memory loss, but this is the second most-common side effect of taking these kinds of drugs. Doctors know that the brain uses cholesterol to form new synapses and that cholesterol is found in the myelin sheathes that insulate neurons and speed up transmission along nerve pathways.
Thus, some doctors theorize that cholesterol is necessary for proper brain function and that lowering it too much may cause memory to malfunction. Studies back up this theory; older people who have a cholesterol level of less than 200 perform less well on cognitive reasoning tests than people who have higher cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol lowering drugs also may interfere with memory because they block the enzyme that creates cholesterol. This enzyme also creates a compound called CoQ10, which provides energy to your cells. Loss of this compound leads to muscle failure and heart failure as well as memory problems.
Finally, statins interfere with the product of a protein in the brain called tau, which is required for normal brain functioning. If the brain is deprived of tau, it begins to develop structural abnormalities similar to those seen in patients with advanced cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
What to Do
The best way to improve your memory after taking statins is to stop taking them. The majority of patients recover their memory altogether about six to eight months after they stop taking statin medications.
Of course, since statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol, you need to find a way to improve your cholesterol levels without taking the medication. Otherwise, you will have to make a choice between losing your memory and increasing your risk of serious heart problems such as heart attack or stroke. Thus, you need information about how to lower cholesterol without resorting to medication. Talk to your doctor about appropriate dietary choices for lowering cholesterol.
It’s important to approach your doctor from the point of view of wanting to lower your cholesterol rather than wanting to avoid statin medications. Many doctors are unaware of the link between statin use and memory loss and may try to convince you to take a different statin if you bring up your memory problems to him.
Your doctor may also dismiss your memory problems as being a sign of aging or diagnose you with Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, you shouldn’t tell him that you want to get off statins to improve your memory. Instead, you should tell him that you want to learn how to control your cholesterol through diet and exercise and improve your overall health.
Once you begin making dietary changes, stop your statin immediately. You should begin seeing changes within 24 hours, and after a few months you’ll become extremely aware of how much your memory is improving. As your memory improves, begin challenging it with crossword puzzles or other brain games so that you can strengthen your brain function and lessen your risk of actually getting Alzheimer’s disease or another disease related to memory loss and aging.
Category: Memory Loss