Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that flows through your bloodstream. You are at risk of a heart attack or stroke if your cholesterol levels are not good. Statins could help. This is a class of drugs designed to lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) in your body, also known as “bad” cholesterol.
Statins and brain fog
While statins have many health benefits and are safe for most people, there are a few side effects. These can include:
Brain fog is “a common level of confusion and disorientation,” says Robert Rosenson, MD, director of the Cardiometabolic Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
The FDA approved label changes for statins that list memory loss and confusion as a “non-serious and reversible side effect”.
Cholesterol is an important part of your brain. In fact, that’s where 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found. So it may seem like statins can affect the way your brain works.
But experts see no cause for concern. Several studies on the drug’s side effects suggest that there is no direct link. And the symptoms could be a sign of other problems, Rosenson says.
“You forget where you put your keys, you can open the refrigerator, put the keys in, [and] they forget and cannot find them. But these are often signs of Alzheimer’s. And Alzheimer’s is a disease that develops over a long period of time, ”he says.
These types of memory problems usually occur in middle-aged or elderly people and can be a sign of many medical conditions.
“You might have to ask yourself, ‘Is it really the drug?’ Or is there something else here that would require a formal evaluation by a neuropsychiatric specialist, ”says Rosenson.
On the other hand, some research suggests that statin use has been linked to lowering the risk of dementia or improving brain function. A 12-year study in Taiwan looked at 57,669 people over 65 and found that high doses of statins were “particularly effective” in preventing dementia. More research needs to be done on this.
What to do in case of brain fog Brain
Do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your doctor. You can choose:
- Stop your statin therapy
- Switch to a different type of statin
- Lower your dose
Rosenson says he could switch someone to a non-statin drug like ezetimibe. It works by absorbing the cholesterol in your intestines. Or he could try a PCSK9 inhibitor. It is a class of drugs that does not cross the blood-brain barrier. They break down LDL receptors and remove bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Currently, the FDA has approved two PCSK9 inhibitors for use. You are:
- Alirocumab (Praluent)
- Evolocumab (Repatha)
However, Rosenson emphasizes that with statin therapy the side effects such as brain fog are rare and mostly short-term. The benefits often outweigh the disadvantages, especially for people with high cholesterol or those at risk for:
“You have to be aware that there aren’t many drugs that can both reduce inflammation in the arteries and lower cholesterol,” he says. “So you have to think of the big picture and the extensive data.”
What to watch out for when taking statins
Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid or alleviate side effects:
Be careful with grapefruit. The juice contains certain chemicals that can disrupt the metabolism of statins in your intestines. While you don’t have to give up grapefruit, ask your doctor what amount is safe to eat or drink.
Let your doctor know about any medications you are taking. Certain drugs can interact with statins and cause side effects. These include:
Make it easy for yourself when you exercise. One of the most common side effects of statins is muscle aches and pains. But too much exercise can increase or worsen your risk of muscle injury. When starting a new exercise routine, build up the intensity slowly.