Memory Loss- Just Accept It?
When my mother's thinking processes began to deteriorate, my siblings and I all assumed it was just simply the aging process- she was entering her 80's, so we didn't think too much about it.
But when I went online to find natural alternatives to cholesterol-lowering medications, I ran across information that suggests that statin drugs (medications prescribed to lower cholesterol levels) can leave you with impaired mental function after years of use. And the more deeply I dig, the more evidence I am finding that these drugs can be devastating. Both dementia and Alzheimer's have been connected with statin use, something I find alarming.
I want to share what I have found, and hope to meet some of you so we can share information. I hope this post will provide information that will help prevent memory loss in you or your loved ones.
Brain diagram is free image from artvex.com.
Mom lived in independent living for 7 years, but the last couple of those probably should have been in assisted living. She hid her symptoms very well so we really didn't realize how far she was slipping. Her memory was slowly deteriorating, leaving her confused and upset. She was still trying to take care of her own bank account and keep track of all her medications herself, and both were becoming a problem.
Two other issues had come up around the same time that I didn't connect at the time. She was growing more and more unsteady, falling more often, and she was exhibiting behavior changes. She had always been very, very frugal and careful with her money, but one day we found out she had become consumed with mail sweepstakes scams, something she would never have been involved with before. She was sending money out to these people every day, turning her bank account into a nightmare and prompting a phone call from the bank to me. I didn't think they might be connected until later.
As her memory symptoms became more and more evident, and not realizing how all these problems might stem from the same source, we didn't think too much about it, figuring it was all part of the aging package. It was when conversations became "circular", going round and round over the same things, that we became concerned.
That was also when her doctor realized there was a problem and placed her first phone call to me. She had just had one of those circular conversations with her and was rather alarmed. She was immediately placed on two medications for memory, two more drugs to add to the plethora of medications she was already taking. With her memory declining as it was, we opted to get one of those dispensing machines that has the voice reminder. That worked very well for several months and kept her in independent living a little longer.
But all this came to a screeching halt when she was found on the floor one morning, having spent the night there, putting an end to the independent living experience. She was in and out of the hospital and rehab for several months and finally admitted to the care center.
Pill box is free image from Wikimedia Commons.
Cholesterol and Brain Function
. . . the link
Once Mom was settled in the care center and her doctor was changed to the one on staff there, she was taken off many of the medications she had been on for years. She had been taking pain meds for migraines with which she had suffered since college, as well as drugs for restless legs, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and who knows what else. Those are the ones I know about.
One day I was looking online for natural alternatives to control cholesterol, and found a site that explained how long-term use of statins can lead to dementia-like symptoms. That got me to thinking- I knew that cholesterol was a necessary ingredient for brain function, and immediately put two and two together. It's not rocket science- deprive the brain of cholesterol for years, and it is bound to deteriorate.
This appeared to be a very likely cause of Mom's mental deterioration, and I believe was verified by her continual improvement the longer she was off statins. Personally, I'm convinced of the connection, though doctors are not as apt to see it, blaming the aging process. One of the reasons I tend to blame statins is that her twin brother as well as all her friends, all the same age, were all in good mental shape while she just fell apart. It couldn't just be the aging process, to my way of thinking.
As I continue to look into this online I'm finding that there are vast numbers of people who have reported memory problems while taking these drugs indicating that this is no small problem. And now I find out that statins are a possible cause of her behavior changes as well as the likely cause of her muscle deterioration that left her in a wheelchair.
Cholesterol is free image from Wikimedia Commons.
Cholesterol, a Necessary Component
The myelin sheath (#5 in the diagram) is a white, waxy coating on nerves through which signals are transmitted from cell to cell, its major component being cholesterol. According to an article at Livestrong.com, The Importance of Cholesterol to the Myelin Sheath, in order to have "high quality myelin", the body must have sufficient cholesterol. It insulates the nerves from "leakage", permitting strong signals to be passed through. With damaged myelin due to a cholesterol deficiency, nerve signals become weak and/or disrupted, resulting in neurological problems.
I don't want to get into a lot of technical detail; the point is that cholesterol is absolutely essential to nerve function, brain function in particular. If you continually deprive your body of cholesterol through the use of medications, and/or the ever-popular low-fat diet, your myelin sheath will suffer, your nerve function will suffer and brain function will be impaired. To me, this just seems like simple, logical thinking, no PhD required.
Neuron diagram is free image from Wikimedia Commons.
One of the articles I found recently on the subject, FDA Expands Advice on Statin Risks, says that FDA investigations have been going on for several years into the cognitive side effects of statins and they have expanded the list of side effects to include memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion. But one of the physicians interviewed for the article recommended continued use of the drugs anyway.
This confirms the fact that many physicians will downplay the side effects of statins simply because they think the risk of heart disease is greater than the risk of dementia. So I suppose these doctors would be apt to just simply throw more medication at the patient to stop memory loss. This would be the typical scenario found with so very many older patients that have rows of medication bottles to deal with every day- many of those meds there only to control the side effects of other meds. And indeed, this is precisely what Mom's doctor did the day she called me- she put her on two Alzheimer's medications to add to the mess of medications she was already dealing with.
By the way, this article has a list of the medications that are included in these studies, if you are interested.
Pill pile is free image from Wikimedia Commons.
Muscle Damage as Well
Mom started falling a lot for over a year before she left independent living. She was getting more and more unsteady and as stated earlier, it was a night spent on the floor after a fall that ultimately sent her to the care center. She rebounded amazingly well after every visit to the hospital in other ways, but eventually became wheelchair-bound- her legs just simply gave out, deteriorating to the point of being useless.
I recently found an article called Statins Cause Muscle Damage in which Dr. Joseph Mercola states that muscle pain and weakness is the most common side-effect of statin drugs but is downplayed by physicians as minor. Mercola contends that pain and weakness indicates that muscle damage is actually occurring, and that damage will not reverse itself after discontinuing the drug. Unlike memory function which seemed to improve somewhat (the "circular" conversations became less frequent), her muscle damage actually became worse, pulling her up into a fetal position, unable to straighten her legs out. Initially, muscle weakness is referred to as myopathy, any condition that results in muscle weakness. Online dictionaries call myopathy a disease, but with statin use, it is a direct result of the way statins work to destroy your cells.
After Mom's initial fall that put her in the hospital, her doctor had told us that her muscle enzyme levels were the highest she'd ever seen. In my research since, I have found out that the enzyme referred to is CK or creatine kinase, muscle enzymes that are released into the bloodstream when muscles have been damaged. Levels 5 times normal indicate the condition rhabdomyolysis where muscle tissue has broken down, a condition that can be fatal. That doctor concluded that it was the night spent on the floor that damaged those muscles. I contend that it was years of statins that did this, and those levels were probably off the charts before the fall. Indeed, it was no doubt the muscle damage that put her on the floor in the first place.
Muscle damage occurs because statins deplete the body of CoQ10, a nutrient necessary for muscle support. Ironically, continued use of statins will eventually destroy the heart muscle, not just other muscles, while patients are being told that they need the drug for heart health. Muscle aches and weakness are the first symptoms that this is happening, and I remember Mom using the therapy services there while still in independent living to try to overcome what this medication had done to her. She took therapy specifically because she was having trouble getting up out of her chair.
The list of side effects is seemingly endless. After taking our mother off statins, she was free from migraines and RLS (restless leg syndrome) and I have since found quite a bit of evidence online that there is a definite connection. What makes me angry is that her doctor knew how Mom had suffered with migraines for years yet kept her on statins anyway, with migraines listed as a possible side effect. RLS is not listed, but there are innumerable stories from people who have experienced RLS while on statins and relief when they stopped taking the drug. (You can check out my post Restless Leg Syndrome- Treat the Causes, not the Symptoms for more information.)
An article was published October 19, 2010, entitled It's Not Dementia, It's Your Heart Medication: Cholesterol Drugs and Memory. According to Melinda Moyer, statins are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world and claim to do much good in saving lives of heart disease patients. However, side effects that include memory loss and "fuzzy thinking" have been reported, with hundreds registering complaints with the FDA. (And actual statistics on how much these drugs help is murky at best.)
To Melinda the connection is clear, though many claim it affects only a certain percentage of the population, something I would dispute. She recounts the experiences of a NASA astronaut, Duane Graveline, who had incidents of amnesia after using statins. He took himself off the medication, but restarted a year later as requested by his physician. One more experience with amnesia and Graveline was off statins permanently. (His books are available below, as well as a link to his website.)
Don't Forget is free image from stockfreeimages.com.
Pills or Broccoli?
Graveline experienced amnesia for a period of hours; my mother's memory deteriorated over the course of years on statins. And there are reports of some people whose memories actually improve with statin use. Reactions obviously vary, but knowing how these drugs work and understanding the brain's requirement for cholesterol should make anyone wary of long-term statin use.
There is a certain contingent out there that actually promotes the use of statins to treat Alzheimer's and dementia on the assumption that cholesterol causes these diseases- think twice before you follow that route. There are links to articles below that contradict that theory. From what I understand, there are no studies at all that indicate that women should ever take the drug, and the only group that might experience a small benefit are men with pre-existing heart conditions. The benefit of these drugs are highly misrepresented. (The Truth about Statins by Barbara H. Roberts, M.D. New York: Gallery Books, 2012, p. 34)
I hope I have presented enough information to at least get people to thinking about the wisdom of taking these drugs for any length of time. And from what I'm seeing online and reading, it looks like the war on cholesterol is completely misguided- your body has to have cholesterol, and one of its main duties is to keep your brain running. For more information, check out my posts, Cholesterol: Mother of All Scams, and The Science of Weight Loss.
We all need to pay much closer attention to what we put in our mouths; lifestyle choices are destroying us with chronic disease. There are plenty of reasons to change how you eat and to exercise more but "lowering your numbers" isn't one of them for most of us. If your doctor is using the typical scare tactics to foist statins on you, get yourself educated. Statins are dangerous and will cause much more damage than good. If you are brainwashed into believing that you have to lower your cholesterol, then change your diet for that reason. It will still do you a world of good on many fronts.
It's too easy for doctors to prescribe pills and for patients to pop them. We want instant fixes, but statins just aren't a good idea to my way of thinking. The alternative isn't easy, but you have to decide- do you want to make yourself susceptible to dementia or Alzheimer's? You surely don't want to be tied to a wheelchair!
The broad spectrum of severe disabilities with increased prevalence in statin side effect reviews all point toward a general trend of increased frailty and mental decline with long-term statin therapy, things that are usually associated with old age. I would in fact best characterize statin therapy as a mechanism to allow you to grow old faster. (How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don't Really Work)Cornucopia is free clip art from clipartclipart.com.
This is a clip from a very well done documentary that covers the side effects of statins as well as the politics that are driving the industry. Find the dvd at Statin Nation or at amazon.co.uk.
Cracking the Cholesterol Myth
Cracking the Cholesterol Myth- A new study finds the chemical war against cholesterol using statin drugs was justified through statistical deception and the cover up of over 300 adverse health effects documented in the biomedical literature.
Statin Drugs- Worth the Risk?
Dr. Johnny Bowden discusses the pros and cons of statins and how they are over-prescribed.
Sites with More Information
Spacedoc.com- Dr. Duane Graveline MD website with over 250 articles available.
Stopped Our Statins- Side effects, resources, general information, and now a forum. A wonderful site with loads of great information; check this one out first. They have also created a Yahoo group Stopped Our Statins, and a Facebook page.
The Connection Between Statins and Memory Loss- A page at Be Brain Fit with lots of information.
The Case Against Statins- article by Armon Neel, author of the book Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?
The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins May Cause Alzheimers-In this article, Stephanie Seneff makes a case connecting a low-fat diet and increased statin use with the rise in Alzheimer's disease.
Myth: Cholesterol Causes Alzheimer's Disease Part 1: Debunking the Myth- In this series, the author confronts the claim that Alzheimer's Disease is caused by cholesterol. He demonstrates why this is false and why the brain needs cholesterol to avoid this disease.
Medical News Today: Statins and Memory Loss in Women- "This drug makes women stupid," said Etingen, who claimed having seen these symptoms in about dozen female patients.
Natural News- article about statins causing muscle damage, sometimes without symptoms
The Great Cholesterol Scam- Blog by K.L. Carlson, MBA, author of Diary of a Legal Drug Dealer.
Statins Fry Your Brain and Scramble Your Memory Like an Egg- This is a review of the book Statin Drugs Side Effects and the Misguided War on Cholesterol by Dr. Duane Graveline, M.D. You've got to read this one.
Dr. David Brownstein: How to Increase Your Risk of Dying? Take a Statin Drug- Another doctor with a blog site that is publicizing the dangers of statins; also has written a new book.
Report Your Side Effects
If you have experienced statin side effects you owe it to all of us to report what you have experienced. Doctors don't report statin side effects very often because they generally attribute them to other causes like aging, arthritis, fibromyalgia, whatever. It's a rare doctor that makes the connection. So it is up to the consumer to report experiences with these drugs.
MedWatch- The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. Report side effects here, or here to the FDA.
RxISK- "RxISK is the first free, independent website where patients, doctors, and pharmacists can research prescription drugs and easily report a drug side effect — identifying problems and possible solutions earlier than is currently happening." This site provides links to drug regulation organizations in several countries.
Statin Effects Study- "The UCSD Statin Study group, headed by Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, has actively been researching statin medications and their risk-benefit balance, including possible side effects. We believe it is important to understand all of the benefits and adverse events of statins. Accordingly, our work is geared towards expanding knowledge of the impact of statins in order to better inform the public and the medical community." There is a link to a paperless form to report your experiences with statins.
Books at Amazon
The number of books on the subject is growing all the time.
Lipitor: Thief of Memory. Dr. Graveline presents his case on the dangers of statins very effectively, and from personal experience with the poison.
Statin Drugs Side Effects
The Dark Side of Statins
Other Authors Make Their Case at Amazon
How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time by James B. and Hannah Yoseph. This one explains all the deception involved for decades in getting this stuff approved in the first place, and then promoted as an absolute necessity for a huge percentage of the population. The Yosephs go into great detail on the nature of this stuff (a toxin), how it affects you at the cellular level, and all the gory details on the politics behind it all.
The Great Cholesterol Con by Malcolm Kendrick
The Truth About Statins by Barbara H. Roberts
The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra
Ignore the Awkward: How the Cholesterol Myths Are Kept Alive by Uffe Ravnskov. This is another great book that explores all the deception involved in the promotion of statins.
Are Your Prescriptions Killing You? by Armon Neel. Full of valuable information about the over-prescribing of medications, especially to seniors who are particularly vulnerable to side effects. He devotes an entire chapter to the dangers of statins.
The Science of Weight Loss- Find out why the standard advice won't work and what will.
Breakfast Cereal Diets- Really??- Why eating cereal can't possibly help you lose weight for the long term.
Sugar- The Real Villain- This was my first blog post on this subject; some information is repetitive, but there are other points made, as well as links and a list of sugar substitutes.
"Healthy" Foods That Aren't- Several foods that are perceived as healthy but really aren't.
They Told Me He's a Quack- Several people I have found out about that have gone against the tide of public opinion and "expert" advice and have given thousands of people help and hope.
Cholesterol- Mother of All Scams- The whole cholesterol scare has been based on faulty research and has been exploited by pharmaceutical companies to keep an otherwise healthy population on their drugs.
Protein, pH and the Alkaline Diet- How the pH of the food you eat affects your health.
Restless Leg Syndrome- Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms- My experience with RLS and what has helped me.
Why You Can't Trust the Medical Industry- The entire medical industry has been corrupted by greed. It pays to be skeptical.
Hormone Balance and Estrogen Dominance- Regularly prescribed HRT has serious side effects; there is an alternative.
Water for Health- Why we need water to stay healthy.
Phonics and Dyslexia- Information that can help dyslexic adults as well as children, and a post about the phonics-whole language wars and why phonics wins every time hands-down.
Quill pen is free image from Wikimedia Commons.