While some doctors and researchers seem keen to downplay the potential hazards of statins, their use is linked with a range of unwanted effects including muscle weakness, muscle pain, liver damage and kidney damage. These are all well-recognised side-effects from this form of medication. However, there is also some thought that statins can affect brain function too, and in particular may impact on memory and basic brain function. If this is the case, then one might expect statins to be particularly problematic in individuals who have compromised brain functioning to begin with, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease.
A group of US-based researchers decided to test this idea in a group of elderly individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) . All of the individuals in this study were taking statins at the start of the study. The research involved taking these individuals off statins for 6 weeks, and then putting individuals back on their statin medication for another 6 weeks. During the study, individuals had their mental functioning assessed including with a tool known as the ‘mini mental state examination’ (MMSE). This test is designed to assess brain functions such as memory, the production and understanding of language, problem-solving and decision-making – what researchers and doctors often refer to as ‘cognition’.
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