For people with high cholesterol, the availability of statin drugs is a boon to health. Statins, which work on the liver to remove the enzymes that create cholesterol, have lowered the cholesterol levels of many Americans who either are not able or willing to make dietary and lifestyle changes or who have made them but whose cholesterol stays elevated due to genetics. But another possible side effect of statins has been noticed, one that doesn't appear at first glance to be connected to cholesterol: a reduction in age-related memory loss. Are statin takers actually slashing their risk of developing dementia?

Several studies over the past few years appear to support this theory, and it's not hard to make the leap from lowering cholesterol to reducing dementia. Scientists have hypothesized that since the plaques marking the brains of people with Alzheimers are comprised partly of cholesterol, lowering total cholesterol could help prevent dementia. But others are not so sure. In fact, some studies appear to show that statin use promotes memory loss, a seemingly contradictory finding. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, two big clinical trials showed no difference between the cognitive function of older statin patients and those who did not take statins.

The bottom line? No one knows for sure how statins affect memory loss. Talk to your doctor about going on statins if you can't get your cholesterol under control, but don't take them just because you don't want to develop dementia. To stave off mental decline as you get older, experts recommend that you do the following:

  • Stay connected socially. Call friends, meet people for meals, and join volunteer groups. This will reduce your stress levels, keeping brain connections functioning optimally.
  • Keep active physically. Walk, bike, swim, or do yoga. Do what you enjoy, but do it regularly. Exercise keeps blood flowing to and from your brain and reduces your risk of cardiovascular problems, which often go hand in hand with dementia.
  • Challenge yourself mentally. Engage in the daily crossword puzzle, study a new language, or read books with substance. This will strengthen brain cells, and may even create new nerve cells.
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants. Saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol, which contributes to stroke risk. Concentrate on leafy greens and whole foods as much as possible. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that can keep your brain young.




Alzheimers Association,

Mayo Clinic,