Taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to research presented during the American Academy of Neurology's 54th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., April 13-20, 2002.
The study found that taking statins was associated with a 79-percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to the study's lead author, neurologist and epidemiologist Robert C. Green, MD, MPH, of Boston University School of Medicine.
"This study confirms and extends previous reports and is the largest study on this topic in the U.S.," Green said. "It is also the first to include a large number of African-American families."
Researchers studied 2,581 people from more than 800 families, enrolled over six years at 15 medical centers. They examined risk factors and medication history in 912 people with probable or definite Alzheimer's disease and 1,669 of their family members who did not have dementia. The results were adjusted for age, sex, education, and history of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The relationship between statins and risk of Alzheimer's was no different for people with the gene variant associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's, apolipoprotein E ?4, or apoE-?4. The relationship between statins and Alzheimer's was also the same for whites as it was for African Americans, who have a higher risk of developing the disease.
Statins lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by blocking the production of a liver enzyme used by the body to make cholesterol. In this study, cholesterol-lowering drugs other than statins were not associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's. There was also no difference between the use of natural and synthetic statins.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. These data were collected as part of an ongoing genetic epidemiology study based at Boston University School of Medicine and led by Lindsay Farrer, PhD.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.