The HMG-CoA reductase pathway, which is blocke...
The HMG-CoA reductase pathway, which is blocked by statins via inhibiting the rate limiting enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By  Dr. Brownstein

Posted by dtbrents

I have often noted that statins can cause memory loss. A new study published in the August 4, 2012, issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacology has confirmed this once again.

Researchers followed 18 elderly subjects who were given a statin drug for six weeks followed by a withdrawal phase and then a rechallenge with statins for six weeks. The scientists measured the subjects. cognitive function by administering a battery of tests. The results showed that statins caused a significant decline in the scores on a test called the Mini Mental Status Examination. Furthermore, when the subjects stopped taking statin medication their scores improved.

The authors summarized their findings by stating, Statins may adversely affect cognition in patients with dementia.

The majority of the brain is made up of cholesterol. In fact, the highest concentration of cholesterol of any organ in the body is the brain. So if you lower cholesterol levels with a statin drug, what would you expect? Of course, brain function will decline.

These researchers not only put the subjects on statins, they measured their cognitive function while on and off statins and then rechallenged them again with statins. Each time the subjects were treated with a statin medication, their brain function declined.

Causes & symptoms   By Mai Tran, Rebecca J. Frey PhD

The following are common causes of memory loss:

  • Aging. A person loses nerve cells at the rate of 1% per year, even without a disease associated with memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The body stops growing new nerve cells after age 25. Therefore, by the time a person reaches 70 years of age, he or she will probably have lost at least one-third of his or her memory functioning.
  • Nutritional deficiency. Not enough thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, and/or protein contributes to memory loss.
  • Depression. Depression can cause memory loss at any age. This is one of the main reasons for forgetfulness in the elderly. Depression-related memory loss is a treatable condition.
  • Diseases. Memory loss can result from such chronic disease conditions as diabetes or hypothyroidism.
  • Oxygen deprivation. Such conditions as severe head trauma, surgery, strokes, or heart attacks cause a sudden reduction of oxygen to the brain, which causes widespread death of nerve cells and significant memory loss.
  • Structural abnormalities in or damage to the parts of the brain associated with memory formation. As of 2003, researchers have identified the areas of the brain known as the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex as the primary locations of memory formation.
  • Free-radical damage. Free-radical molecules destabilize other molecules around them, resulting in damage to the body at the molecular level. Free-radicals can damage the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that separates the circulating blood and the brain. A weakened barrier may not be able to prevent toxic chemicals from entering the brain. Widespread brain damage, accelerated cell death, and memory loss occur as a result.
  • Chemical poisoning. Daily exposure to toxic chemicals such as alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs (heroine, cocaine, and amphetamines) destroys brain cells at a rapid rate. Other environmental toxins, such as lead and mercury, can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Once inside the brain, these heavy metals kill nerve cells. This helps explain why exposure to heavy metals has been linked to memory and learning problems in children. Even though aluminum is not considered a heavy metal, its accumulation in the brain is believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Central nervous system (CNS) infections and inflammation of the brain. Encephalitis (an inflammatory disease of the brain) can result in the death of nerve cells, which can result in significant memory loss. CNS infections such as toxoplasmosis and neurosyphilis can also cause significant brain damage and memory loss.
  • Stress. Emotional or physical stress stimulates the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Constant exposure to stress hormones results in nerve-cell death and memory loss.
  • Sensory overload. When a person is trying to do too many tasks or worry about too many things at the same time, the brain is overloaded with information and cannot process short-term memories. Therefore, if a person is trying to remember a lot of information, he or she tends to forget car keys or scheduled appointments.
  • Low blood sugar. Nerve cells require glucose (sugar) to generate energy. If there is not enough glucose in the blood, nerve cells starve and die. Excessively low blood sugar can send a person into shock and/or into a coma.
  • Genetic factors. Several genes that increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s were identified in 2002. In addition, Down’s syndrome, which is caused by an abnormal form of human chromosome 21, is characterized by loss of memory relatively early in life, often in the patient’s 30s or 40s.
  • Seizures. Prolonged seizures, such as in patients with epilepsy, can cause significant memory loss.
  • Severe emotional trauma. Extreme emotional trauma has been associated with sudden amnesia. Dissociative amnesia is a type of amnesia that occurs when the brain splits off, or dissociates, extremely distressing memories from conscious recollection.
  • Low estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. Women often report a significant decrease in memory function immediately following menopause.