Statin Side Effects – Brain Fog, Memory Loss

Statins, the most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs may have adverse side effects on your brain. Research suggests that statin users often report symptoms like brain fog, memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion; when taking statins. Understanding statin side effects may help you cope with the symptoms.

Your body needs some cholesterol, but high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) i.e. “bad cholesterol” can block your blood vessels and put you at high risk of heart diseases such as heart attack or stroke. However, to identify your risk for heart disease, the more beneficial test is to measure LDL particle size. Only small LDL molecules are dangerous, as they stick on the artery walls, causing inflammation and plaque formation.

understanding statin side effects

Understanding How Statins Effect Your Brain

When you have high cholesterol or a higher risk of heart disease, your doctor prescribes statins to block the production of cholesterol or even reduce the amount that is built up in your artery walls over the years. The problem with statin drugs is that they address the cholesterol issue in a simplistic manner, by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase in your liver, which is needed to produce cholesterol, hormones, memory proteins and maintain cell energy.

The drug essentially reduces your total cholesterol number, without addressing specifically your high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) or triglyceride levels. This impairs various bodily functions such as to build new cell walls, in formation of vitamin D and in production of hormones, where your body needs cholesterol.

Understanding side effects of statins

In recent years, due to persistent direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns, statins have been accepted by people (especially over 45 years of age) as the primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes. Many people do not have a clear understanding of statin side effects. However, indiscriminate use of statins can have harmful, covert side effects. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced additional warning labels for statins.

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Is Brain Fog a Statin Side Effect

One of the warnings by FDA is that statins may increase the risk of memory loss and confusion. This came as a result of anecdotal reports compiled from many statin users, who experienced symptoms and dysfunction i.e. memory loss, confusion, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, paranoia, disorientation, depression and dementia.

Besides, impairing your working and recognition memory, certain statins may even lead to transient global amnesia and other types of cognitive damage. Some animal studies reveal that rats on statin had impaired learning, with lower abilities to form new memories and recall information, required to perform simple learning and memory tasks.

The Importance of Cholesterol

A quarter of the body’s cholesterol is found inside your head. Besides, being an integral part of every brain cell, it is found in the myelin sheaths that insulate the neurons. Cholesterol is also required for the formation of synapses and production of neurotransmitters i.e. the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. Therefore, scientists believe that cholesterol lowering drugs like statins may damage your brain by creating a cholesterol deficiency.

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Insufficient cholesterol not only inhibit production of neurotransmitters but also other important bio-chemicals like coenzyme Q10 and dolichols, which can impair your cognitive function, emotion and mood.

Other Possible Side Effects of Statins

Often deficiency of these chemicals results in serious memory loss but some people report other side effects in addition to brain fog, like getting very depressed, anxious, or even suicidal when taking these drugs. However, in general these symptoms were found reversible as the problem vanished shortly after stopping these medications.

understanding statin side effects

While statins users often report memory loss, one research study found that 48% of women who take these medications eventually develop diabetes which also greatly increases your risk for dementia. Understanding statins side effects plus the effects when combined with other types of medications can also lead to adverse reactions, including confusion or memory loss.

Adverse effects are dose-dependent, and your health risks can be amplified by a number of factors, such as taking other drugs (which may increase statin potency), metabolic syndrome or thyroid disease. Some of the consequences of taking statin drugs in strong doses or for a long period include: headache, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, high blood sugar (type 2 diabetes), loss of consciousness, cognitive loss, neuropathy and others.

Finally, statins may be effective in lowering cholesterol levels, but they may be causing more damage than good, with their possible risks. However, statins are profitable and out-sell all other class of drugs in the market, so doctors and pharmaceutical companies may have a vested interest in continuing to promote these drugs.  Being aware of the side effects of statin drugs can help improve your health.

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While working with your doctor, you might consider using red yeast rice, a compound made from yeast fermentation on white rice and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.  Red yeast rice appears to have all the benefits of statins with the adverse side effects.

We recommend you see your medical professional before changing your diet or medications. This information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.