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Cholesterol: memory problems and depression as potential side effects of statin drugs
CHOLESTEROL: MEMORY PROBLEMS AND DEPRESSION AS POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF STATIN DRUGS
Memory and concentration problems: Statins may affect your cognitive function. A study done at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA showed that patients who took statins for six months performed much worse in solving complex mazes, memory tests, and had poorer psychomotor skills than patients who took a placebo. Lapses in concentration, and short term memory loss may not be just because you are tired or getting older, it could be the cholesterol lowering drug you are taking. Duane Graveline is a former astronaut and author of the book "Lipitor: Thief of Memory". In his book Duane describes how he and many others have experienced complete memory loss for varying periods of time; they did not remember where they were and why. These memory blanks can occur suddenly and vanish suddenly. Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor and Lipex (simvastatin) are the statins most likely to cause memory loss.
Cognitive decline is not mentioned as a possible side effect of statins in patient leaflets. In fact, some doctors actually recommend that taking statins, and having a low cholesterol level can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease. However, recent research disputes this. A group of 1026 individuals who were part of the Framingham study were observed. All the participants were free of cardiovascular disease and dementia in 1988-89, and had their cholesterol levels checked twice a year between 1950 and 2000. Between 1992 and 2000, 77 people developed Alzheimer's disease. The study found that the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease was in no way related to cholesterol levels.
Depression: Because cholesterol is required for the function of serotonin receptors in our brain, it makes sense that lowering cholesterol may trigger depression in some individuals. This is ironic, as depression is already a major health issue in Australia, and people who are depressed are at greater risk of heart disease.
Mr R. ? from Albury in New South Wales experienced significant depression while taking Lipitor. "For the past 15 years I have been in a high stress position dealing with teenagers and young people in a country high school. About 3 years ago I had my cholesterol checked, and my G.P. recommended I go onto Lipitor to lower the level of cholesterol. Over a period of time I began to feel depressed, wishing that there was some way out of the daily grind. I even took long service leave to see if the depression would lift, but it just kept getting stronger and stronger. I hated going to work. Once I was simply working on some landscaping at home when I broke down and cried on the front foot path. I wasn't even embarrassed about it. I couldn't care any more. There was no rhyme or reason for this apparent depression. I just felt awful and wanted to end my life.
Twelve months ago I had an appointment with Dr Cabot who asked what current medication I was taking. I listed several including Lipitor (the others were for high blood pressure) and she advised me to immediately stop taking the Lipitor.
The difference was very noticeable. I felt somewhat better during the next day when I didn't take the Lipitor and within a week I actually looked forward to going to work. Life has become a much happier place for me and I now look forward to a full and rewarding life. AH the things that people do every day without thinking about I can now do with a positive outlook, and I am now living my life to the fullest".
Please note that we do not recommend you stop taking a cholesterol lowering medication abruptly, unless you have your own doctor's permission.
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