Side Effects of Statin Drugs:
Memory Loss Number 2 on the List

Is Memory Loss Really One of The Side Effects of Statin Drugs?

Second among the statins side effects – behind muscle pain – is memory loss. And like some of the other side effects of statin drugs, this one is hotly debated.

If you read some of the research you might think that statins have little negative effect on memory. Or you may think they even have a positive effect. For example... this statement in a pod cast by Dr. Gerald Gau of the Mayo Clinic:

Memory loss is an interesting one. It's been looked at in several different ways. In case-control studies, when they followed these studies, they found that there appeared to be less progression of dementia, or cognitive loss of function, in people that were on statins vs. not on statins. However, when it was looked at in two big clinical trials — the Heart Protection Study done in England, which is 20,000 patients, and the PROSPER study done in this country, in older patients — they found when they looked at the older patients in these two studies, that there was no difference between cognitive loss or dementia.
For the entire article on side effects of statin drugs please click here.

Other research would suggest a minor negative impact of statins. The "Randomized Trial of the Effects of Simvastatin on Cognitive Functioning in Hypercholesterolemic Adults" concluded...
This study provides partial support for minor decrements in cognitive functioning with statins. Whether such effects have any long-term sequelae or occur with other cholesterol- lowering interventions is not known.
You can access this report on statins side effects by clicking here.

On the far end of the spectrum you find statements like this…
My father was rushed to the hospital last night after starting Lipitor three weeks ago and has lost about 12 hours of his memory.
Such reports are not hard to find.

So what gives? Is memory loss really one of the side effects of statin drugs or not?

There are far too many reports of memory loss associated with statin use to ignore. And - in spite of what many medical practitioners are willing to admit – there is research to support the idea that one of the side effects of statin drugs is memory loss. But not all studies show the same results.

Why Research Can't Agree

Why would some studies support the idea that statins can cause memory loss while others do not?

Dr. Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine makes a number of suggestions in one of her articles.

She plainly says that...
Cognitive problems also occur with statins.
But she admits that not all studies support this theory. She gives the following reasons why this may be so.

Side Effects of Statin Drugs: Memory Loss

The first reason she gives is that different studies focus on different measures of cognition. And that some of these measures do not apply to the areas where cognition problems occur. That is to say… statins may have a negative effect on a memory related function that is not tested in some trials. The factors that are studied appear normal. But other factors that affect memory go untested.

A second reason involves the different populations studied in different trials. A particular study may focus on subjects who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease... and are at high risk for nonfatal stroke. People in this category may actually show improvement in memory as a result of taking statins.

But some studies have shown an increase in fatal strokes with statin use. Patients who have died from fatal strokes in these trials cannot be tested for memory loss. So in studies resulting in a decrease of nonfatal strokes and an increase in fatal strokes can give us skewed results for memory testing.

Thirdly, the Heart Protection Study (HPS) – one of the studies that showed statins have no affect on memory - put potential participants on simvastatin for 6 weeks. More than one third of the participants were dropped from the study for noncompliance. Many of these may have removed themselves from participating because of problems with the drug.

If memory loss was among the side effects of statin drugs associated with this study… those who dropped out would not be counted in the final results. Whether patients suffering from memory loss refused to take the medication or forgot to take it, the result is the same.

Click here to read the whole article by Dr. Golomb entitled Statin Adverse Effects: Implications for the Elderly.

How Can Statins Cause Memory Loss?

If memory loss really is one of the side effects of statin drugs, what mechanism could cause it? A popular view is that cholesterol itself is linked to memory.

One study entitled, "Serum Cholesterol and Cognitive Performance in the Framingham Heart Study" tested the relationship between cholesterol levels and memory.

The Framingham Heart Study was a long-term, multi-generational study carried out in Framingham, Massachusetts. From that one study multiple other studies have gleaned valuable heart health related data.

The current study mentioned above involved 789 men and 1,105 women from the original Framingham group. All the participants were free from dementia and stroke and were studied for up to 18 years. The results of the study showed that people with total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL showed lower cognitive performance than those with borderline high total cholesterol (200-239 mg/dL). People with high cholesterol also performed better.

The subjects of this study were not on cholesterol lowering medications. But those with normally occurring total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL showed lower performance in abstract reasoning, attention/concentration, word fluency, and executive functioning.

If lower cholesterol affects cognitive skills then perhaps statins affect memory precisely because they do what we want them to do… lower cholesterol.

You can see an abstract of the study by clicking here

Statins, Cholesterol, and COQ10

A number of people have therefore suggested that cholesterol is necessary for proper brain function. Others believe that suppressed CoQ10 levels also play a part.
Statins interrupt CoQ10 synthesis as well as cholesterol production. Inadequate CoQ10 levels have been associated with a number of health issues. CoQ10 is necessary for the production of cellular energy.
It is suggested that low CoQ10 hinders proper brain function.
If CoQ10 plays a part in cognitive function, then supplementing with CoQ10 may benefit statin users. It is well documented that statins do lower CoQ10 significantly. Supplementing may help.

However, the cholesterol issue is more difficult. If we want lower cholesterol for heart health reasons then how do we avoid side effects like memory loss?

The answer is not clear. However, the side effects of statin drugs vary from person to person and product to product. A patient that experiences side effects with one statin may not experience the same side effects with another.

Also, the side effects of statin drugs may be an incentive for some of us to be more serious about taking care of ourselves with more natural means such as diet and exercise.

If you think memory loss may be one of the side effects of statin drugs that you have experienced… do not be shy about talking to your doctor. Strongly suggest that you try another treatment.

Do You Have a Story?

This may be your chance to help the rest of us. If you use statin drugs or once did and you have a story we would appreciate it if you would share it with us. It doesn’t have to be bad news. We could all benefit from sharing our stories.
If you would like to share your story with the rest of us you can have your own webpage here at It is simple and fun. Simply use the link below to get started. Upon approval – it isn't hard – your story will show up on your own webpage. Others can leave commits on your page as well.

So please share with the rest of us. We would love to hear from you.

Click here to share your statin story.

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