Growing evidence suggests that statin therapy, used to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, for adults aged 65 or more years, is not associated with incident dementia, mild cognitive impairment or decline in individual cognition domains. 

Statins, according to an observational study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, appear to remain a fundamental treatment for prevention of primary and secondary cardiovascular disease events. Further randomized trials are needed, however, the authors said.

The study was conducted in response to ongoing concern over a 2012 warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which linked short-term cognitive impairment to statin use. 

“With statins being increasingly prescribed to older adults, their potential long-term effects on cognitive decline and dementia risk have attracted growing interest,” said Zhen Zhou, Ph.D., of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania in Australia, and lead author of the study. “The present study adds to previous research by suggesting that statin use at baseline was not associated with subsequent dementia incidence and long-term cognitive decline in older adults.”

Meanwhile, a second study, this one focused on antihypertensives and cognitive function, describes increasing evidence that this commonly prescribed class of medication for high blood pressure may have a beneficial effect on mental processes relating to memory and how that information is used to guide behavior.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that older adults taking antihypertensives that cross the blood-brain barrier, such as angiotensin-converting-enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers, had better memory recall over time compared with those taking other types of antihypertensive medicines.

This is the first meta-analysis to compare the effect on memory over time associated with antihypertensives that cross the blood-brain barrier versus those that do not, according to the authors. 

“These findings represent the most powerful evidence to date linking brain-penetrant ACE-inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to better memory. It suggests that people who are being treated for hypertension may be protected from cognitive decline if they are taking medications that cross the blood-brain barrier,” said study co-author Jean K. Ho, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine.