This Is Your Mind On Statins

The new brain benefit of cholesterol-lowering drugs

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If your cholesterol’s come down and you’re thinking about discontinuing your statin use, you may want to reconsider. One class of the common cholesterol-controlling drug may significantly lower your risk for Parkinson’s Disease, according to research published in Neurology.

The study team tracked the health outcomes of roughly 44,000 statin users—all free of Parkinson’s at the start of the decade-long study. Compared to people who stopped taking statins, those who continued swallowing fat-soluble forms of the drug, which include simvastatin (Zocor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor), were 58% less likely to develop Parkinson’s, the research shows. Fat-soluble statins were even more protective in women and the elderly. On the other hand, water-soluble statin users were more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s than their friends on fat-soluble ones.

Why? Unlike water-soluble statins like rosuvastatin (Crestor) and pravastatin (Pravachol), which doctors call “hydrophilic” statins, the fat soluble or “lipophilic” forms of the drug are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, explains study co-author Jou-Wei Lin, MD, PhD, of National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine. That greater penetration into your brain’s cells may result in additional anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that slow or stop the development of Parkinson’s, Dr. Lin adds. 

So should you start gobbling Lipitor tablets like your brain’s life depends on it? Not necessarily. The overall risk of developing Parkinson’s among the study participants was very small, and the researchers did not compare their study data to the general population. If Parkinson’s Disease runs in your family, you may want to talk with your doctor about continuing use of fat-soluble statins—if you’re already taking them, Dr. Lin advises. But more research is needed to prove if statins can beat back Parkinson’s among people who aren’t struggling with cholesterol problems.   

More from Prevention:

How Statins May Mitigate Osteoarthritis

Study: Exercise Eases Parkinson’s Symptoms

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