VIENNA — Statin treatment may reduce the risk of later dementia by more than 50%, a national Finnish study has determined.
“Disturbances in cholesterol metabolism have previously been linked to dementia development,” Dr. Alina Solomon wrote in a poster presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. However, noted Dr. Solomon, of the University of Kuopio, Finland, not all studies have concluded that statins are protective against dementia onset.
The investigators examined this question using data from the national FINRISK study, a large, population-based survey of cardiovascular risk factors among Finnish citizens. The survey began in 1972 and is conducted every 5 years.
Dr. Solomon's substudy of FINRISK included data on 17,257 citizens who were included in the 1997 and 2002 cohorts, and who were at least 60 years old in 1995, when statins became available in Finland.
By the study's end at 2007, 1,551 of the subjects had developed dementia and 15,706 had not. Only 18% of those who developed dementia had taken at least 1 year of statin therapy, while 37% of those who were dementia free had taken a statin—a significant difference.
No significant associations were found between dementia and the use of other cholesterol-lowering medications, Dr. Solomon said, suggesting that “the effect of statins in dementia is partly independent of their cholesterol-lowering effect.”
Subjects who developed dementia also had significantly higher baseline total cholesterol and baseline systolic and diastolic blood pressure. But a multivariate regression model that controlled for age, gender, education, cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure still found that statins conferred a 57% risk reduction for dementia over the course of the study.
The finding does not prove that statins prevent dementia, but it does suggest that further studies should explore the idea, focusing on statin types, dosages, and duration of treatment, Dr. Solomon said at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.
Neither she nor her coinvestigators declared any potential conflict of interest in regard to the study.