Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that circulates in your bloodstream. You risk a heart attack or stroke if your cholesterol numbers are not good. Statins might help. This is a class of drugs designed to lower the level of low density lipoproteins in your body (LDL) cholesterol, also called “bad” cholesterol.
Statins and brain fog
While statins have a lot of health benefits and are safe for most people, there are some side effects. These may include:
Brain fog is “a general level of confusion and disorientation,” says Robert Rosenson, MD, director of the cardiometabolic unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
FDA-approved label changes for statins that memory loss and confusion as a “non-serious and reversible side effect”.
Cholesterol is an important part of your brain. In fact, 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found there. So it may seem that statins could affect how your brain works.
But experts don’t think there is cause for concern. Several studies on the side effects of the drug suggest that there is no direct link. And the symptoms could be a sign of other problems, Rosenson says.
“They forget where they put their keys, they can open the refrigerator, put the keys there, [and] they forget and cannot find them. But these are often signs of Alzheimer’s. And Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that develops over the long term, ”he says.
These types of memory problems usually occur in middle-aged or older people and can be a sign of many conditions.
“We may need to ask ourselves the question, ‘Is it really drugs?’ Or is there something else here that would require a formal assessment with a specialist in neuropsychiatry, ”says Rosenson.
On the other hand, some research suggests that statin use is linked to reducing the risk of dementia or improve brain function. A 12-year study in Taiwan looked at 57,669 people over the age of 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 if you have brain fog
Do not stop taking your medication without first talking to the doctor. They can choose to:
- Stop your statin treatment
- Switch to another type of statin
- Decrease your dose
Rosenson says he can switch someone to a non-statin drug like ezetimibe. It works by absorbing cholesterol in your gut. Or he could try a PCSK9 inhibitor. It is a class of drugs that do not cross the blood brain barrier. They collapse LDL receptors and remove bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Currently, the FDA has approved the use of two PCSK9 inhibitors. They are:
- Alirocumab (Praluent)
- Evolocumab (Repatha)
But Rosenson points out that when it comes to statin therapy, side effects like brain fog are rare and usually short-term. The benefits often outweigh the disadvantages, especially for people with high cholesterol or those at risk for:
Things to know when you are on statins
Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid or lessen side effects:
Watch out for grapefruit. The juice contains certain chemicals that can interrupt the metabolism of statins in your gut. While you don’t have to give up grapefruit, ask your doctor how much is safe to eat or drink.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking. Some drugs can interact with statins and cause side effects. These include:
Take it easy when you exercise. One of the common side effects of statins is pain and aches in the muscles. But too much exercise may increase your risk of muscle injury or make it worse. If you are starting a new exercise routine, increase the intensity slowly.