Statins are among the most wide-selling (and profit-generating) drugs in the world. If you just read the health headlines you might get the impression that there is nothing those drugs can't help. They are credited with lowering the risk of heart attacks, improving diabetes, reducing cancer risk and much else.
There are very good reasons to be skeptical of each one of those claims, but there is one effect of statins that we can be pretty confident is real: statin use increases the risk of dementia.
Consider this: Your brain makes up about 2% of your total body mass, but it contains about 25% of the total amount of cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol is vital to the healthy functioning of the brain, and in fact without enough cholesterol and other fats the brain can't generate memories, process thoughts or do other basic functions.
A researcher at MIT, Stephanie Seneff, has been writing about this issue for several years, trying to warn the pubic about the dangers of statins and low fat diets. This memory loss was also described in detail by Dr. Duane Graveline in his book Lipitor: Thief of Memory. Dr. Graveline was diagnosed with "transient global amnesia" after being prescribed Lipitor, and made a full recovery once he quit taking it.
Now a study looking at nearly a million users and non-users of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs has shown that these warnings are for real. Statin users have up to a 4.5x greater risk of being diagnosed with acute memory loss compared to non-users. Most tellingly, the risk of memory loss was high whether cholesterol was lowered with a statin or a non-statin drug. The punch line: our brains need cholesterol to form memories.
Perhaps most tragic of all is what this study doesn't show. It only looked at short term memory loss, which became measurable within 30 days. There is every reason to believe that some people would experience this memory loss more slowly, so that dementia develops after months or even years on the drugs. When this happens the diagnosis would much more likely be yet another tragic case of Alzheimer's or senile dementia, and the drugs would never be suspected as the culprit.
Don't believe the mainstream mantra that cholesterol over 200 is bad. Don't believe your doctor if he/she tells you that you should be on a statin as a preventative therapy against heart disease. The single most important change you can make in your lipids is to raise your HDL, also called the "good cholesterol," to 60 or higher. When HDL is high, heart attack risk is low regardless of the level of total or LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
How do you raise your HDL? The good old fashioned way: exercise and diet.