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Statins linked to reduced Alzheimer's risk

AAP logoAAP 12/12/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Statins are drugs used to help reduce a person's cholesterol but they could also be protecting them against Alzheimer's disease (AD), according to new research.

Analysis of US Medicare data, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggests high use of the cholesterol-busting drugs was associated with a reduced risk of the most common form of dementia.

However, the reduction in risk varied by type of statin used and race and ethnicity, according to the study.

Statins reduce low-density lipoprotein, LDL cholesterol, within the body. The drug works by inhibiting the enzyme involved in the body's ability to produce LDL cholesterol.

The researchers led by Julie Zissimopoulos from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles looked at data from nearly 400,000 statin users from 2009 to 2013.

They examined high and low exposure to statins and statin type for the four most commonly prescribed statins in the US: simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin and rosuvastatin.

High exposure was associated with a 15 per cent decreased risk of AD for women and a 12 per cent reduced risk for men.

The risk of AD was reduced for Hispanic men, white women and men, and black women. But no significant difference in risk was seen for black men who had high exposure to statins compared with low exposure.

"The right statin type for the right person at the right time my provide a relatively inexpensive means to less the burden of AD," the authors conclude.

Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia among older adults, damages memory and thinking skills.

It's not the first time research has suggested a protective association between statins and AD, however, the authors note that they can not establish a cause and that clinical trials are needed to confirm their findings.

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