In preliminary findings, Swedish researchers say taking a cholesterol-lowering statin could also slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study can’t prove cause-and-effect, but might pave the way to a trial that could confirm such a link, said study author Sara Garcia-Ptacek, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
The study was observational, meaning that it was a look at past data, not a gold standard “prospective” trial.
The Swedish team analyzed data on 15,500 people diagnosed with dementia who also had heart issues suggesting that they might benefit from using a statin. About 11,000 of them did go on to use a statin.
Tracked for three years, “people with Alzheimer’s dementia treated with statins had better cognitive development over time,” Garcia-Ptacek said in an institute news release.
That was true “even though they were more likely to have diagnoses such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for dementia,” she added.
However, the findings, published Dec. 20 in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, remain preliminary.
“The results of the study do not mean that we now have evidence that people with dementia should be treated with statins,” Garcia-Ptacek stressed. “But on the other hand, we can’t see any support for not doing so. So, if a person needs statins for high blood lipids [fats], a dementia diagnosis should not stop the treatment.”
In the meantime, better research could confirm any benefit and pinpoint who might benefit most.
“We believe that only certain patients with Alzheimer’s dementia may benefit from statins and that previous clinical trials have been too small to show any significant differences,” Garcia-Ptacek said. “Our idea is to try to crystallize which patient groups benefit the most and why, before embarking on clinical trials.”
Find out more about Alzheimer’s disease at the Alzheimer’s Association.
SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, Dec. 19, 2023
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