Statins and cognitive function in the elderly: the Cardiovascular Health Study

Neurology. 2005 Nov 8;65(9):1388-94. doi: 10.1212/


Objective: To examine the association of statin drug use on cognitive and MRI change in older adults.

Methods: Participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a longitudinal study of people age 65 or older, were classified into three groups determined by whether they were taking statin drugs on a continuous basis, intermittently, or not at all. The untreated group was further divided into categories based on National Cholesterol Education Program recommendations for lipid-lowering treatment. Participants with prevalent or incident clinical TIA or stroke or with baseline Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) scores at or below 80 were excluded. Outcomes examined included rate of change on the 3MS over an average observational period of 7 years, along with changes in MRI white matter grade and measures of atrophy.

Results: Three thousand three hundred thirty-four participants had adequate data for analysis. At baseline, the untreated group in which lipid-lowering drug treatment was recommended were slightly older, less likely to be on estrogen replacement, and had higher serum cholesterol and lower 3MS scores than the statin-treated group. The rate of decline on the 3MS was 0.48 point/year less in those taking statins compared with the untreated group for which treatment was recommended (p = 0.069) and 0.49 point/year less in statin users compared with the group in which lipid-lowering treatment was not recommended (p = 0.009). This effect remained after controlling for serum cholesterol levels. One thousand seven hundred thirty participants with baseline 3MS scores of > 80 underwent cranial MRI scans on two occasions separated by 5 years. There was no significant difference in white matter grade change or atrophy measures between groups.

Conclusion: Statin drug use was associated with a slight reduction in cognitive decline in an elderly population. This relationship could not be completely explained by the effect of statins on lowering of serum cholesterol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / drug effects
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atrophy / drug therapy*
  • Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Atrophy / prevention & control
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cognition Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dementia / drug therapy*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Dementia / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / drug therapy
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Memory Disorders / prevention & control
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Cholesterol