What’s happenin’ Boomers?
Memory Loss in Aging, is it Normal?
Are you one of the 41% of Baby Boomers taking cholesterol lowering drugs, aka statins? Have you or those close to you noticed forgetfulness, memory loss, or confusion? If so, it has probably been attributed to a normally aging brain. Although some cognitive decline is normal, the problems you or someone you know may not be naturally occurring.
Cholesterol: Culprit or Cure?
For decades the medical community has considered cholesterol a danger to heart health. They have said that eating foods with cholesterol raises the cholesterol in the blood, which in turn causes plaque build up in the arteries or “hardening of the arteries”, which narrows the artery walls restricting blood flow to the heart ending in Cardiovascular Disease, stroke and heart attack. This claim comes from “The Framingham Study” a study done in 1948 by the National Heart Institute, now called the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (read their story here). In recent years with renewed interest by doctors that choose not to blindly follow the recommendations of researchers/ institutions largely connected in some way to pharmaceutical companies and their sales reps, have begun their own research. It turns out as with many studies, the evidence does not support the purported outcome. Does it surprise you that human beings don’t want to admit they are wrong? (Source: Framingham Follies by Micheal R. Eades M.D. here).
While many of the bio markers of heart attack risk from the Framingham Study – high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, sedentary life style and smoking, as well as inflammation, (another topic of it’s own), and oxidative stress, (the creator of free radicals) are still of concern, cardiovascular researchers no longer see cholesterol levels as a significant risk factor. Indeed, cholesterol is vitally important for brain function. While your brain represents about 2-3% of your total body weight, 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain, where it plays important roles in such things as membrane function, acts as an antioxidant, and serves as the raw material from which we are able to make things like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D (David Purlmutter MD, Neurology).
Statins and Brain Dysfunction
Given that since the 1950’s cholesterol has been considered the main cause of heart attack, is it any wonder that doctors have been prescribing cholesterol lowering drugs, or statins to their patients believing they were helping? After all, the journals and pharmaceutical companies told them every adult should be taking statins, even though they don’t have high cholesterol.
The FDA has an Adverse Reporting System where data, reported by practicing physicians is collected, however only about 1 to 10 percent of adverse reactions actually are reported. With this in mind it is very disconcerting that there were 36,605 reports of brain dysfunction which included memory impairment, transient cases of global amnesia, confusion, paranoia, disorientation, depression, and dementia related to statin use from 2004 to 2014.
- The statin drug labels have been revised to provide patients with more information on the safe and effective use of statins. Patients should be aware of the following information:
- There have been rare reports of serious liver problems in patients taking statins. Patients should notify their healthcare professional right away if they have the following symptoms: unusual fatigue or weakness; loss of appetite; upper belly pain; dark-colored urine; or yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.
- Memory loss and confusion have been reported with statin use. These reported events were generally not serious and went away once the drug was no longer being taken.
- Increases in blood sugar levels have been reported with statin use.
- Certain medicines should never be taken (are contraindicated) with lovastatin (Mevacor) (see Lovastatin Dose Limitations below).
- Patients should contact their healthcare professional if they have any questions or concerns about statins.
- Patients should report side effects from the use of statins to the FDA MedWatch program, using the information in the “Contact FDA” box at the bottom of the page. (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm293101.htm)