Effects of Statins on Memory, Cognition, and Brain Volume in the Elderly

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Nov 26;74(21):2554-2568. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.09.041.


Background: There is widespread consumer concern that statin use may be associated with impaired memory and cognitive decline.

Objectives: This study sought to examine the association between statin use and changes in memory and global cognition in the elderly population over 6 years and brain volumes over 2 years. Interactions between statin use and known dementia risk factors were examined.

Methods: Prospective observational study of community-dwelling elderly Australians age 70 to 90 years (the MAS [Sydney Memory and Ageing Study], n = 1,037). Outcome measures were memory and global cognition (by neuropsychological testing every 2 years) and total brain, hippocampal and parahippocampal volumes (by magnetic resonance) in a subgroup (n = 526). Analyses applied linear mixed modeling, including the covariates of age, sex, education, body mass index, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, smoking, and apolipoprotein Eε4 carriage. Interactions were sought between statin use and dementia risk factors.

Results: Over 6 years there was no difference in the rate of decline in memory or global cognition between statin users and never users. Statin initiation during the observation period was associated with blunting the rate of memory decline. Exploratory analyses found statin use was associated with attenuated decline in specific memory test performance in participants with heart disease and apolipoprotein Eε4 carriage. There was no difference in brain volume changes between statin users and never users.

Conclusions: In community-dwelling elderly Australians, statin therapy was not associated with any greater decline in memory or cognition over 6 years. These data are reassuring for consumers concerned about statin use and risk of memory decline.

Keywords: brain; cognition; dementia; hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors; memory; statins.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Organ Size / drug effects


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors