Background: Dementia affects an estimated 10% of the population older than 65 years. Because vascular and lipid-related mechanisms are thought to have a role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, we did an epidemiological study of the potential effect of HMGCoA (3 hydroxy-3methylglutaryl-coenzyme A) reductase inhibitors (statins) and other lipid-lowering agents on dementia.
Methods: We used a nested case-control design with information derived from 368 practices which contribute to the UK-based General Practice Research Database. The base study population included three groups of patients age 50 years and older: all individuals who had received lipid-lowering agents (LLAs); all individuals with a clinical diagnosis of untreated hyperlipidaemia; and a randomly selected group of other individuals. From this base population, all cases with a computer-recorded clinical diagnosis of dementia were identified. Each case was matched with up to four controls derived from the base population on age, sex, practice, and index date of case.
Findings: The study encompassed 284 cases with dementia and 1080 controls. Among controls 13% had untreated hyperlipidaemia, 11% were prescribed statins, 7% other LLAs, and 69% had no hyperlipidaemia or LLA exposure. The relative risk estimates of dementia adjusted for age, sex, history of coronary-artery disease, hypertension, coronary-bypass surgery and cerebral ischaemia, smoking and body mass index for individuals with untreated hyperlipidaemia (odds ratio 0.72 [95% CI 0.45-1.14]), or treated with nonstatin LLAs (0.96 [0.47-1.97], was close to 1.0 and not significant compared with people who had no diagnosis of hyperlipidaemia or exposure to other lipid-lowering drugs. The adjusted relative risk for those prescribed statins was 0.29 (0.13-0.63; p=0.002).
Interpretation: Individuals of 50 years and older who were prescribed statins had a substantially lowered risk of developing dementia, independent of the presence or absence of untreated hyperlipidaemia, or exposure to nonstatin LLAs. The available data do not distinguish between Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.