Increased Atherogenic Lipoproteins are Associated With Cognitive Impairment: Effects of Statins and Subclinical Atherosclerosis

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Hypercholesterolemia increases the risk for dementia. Some studies suggest that statins may protect cognition, but findings are conflicting. Unmeasured confounders, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or subclinical atherosclerosis, may have influenced prior study outcomes. In older adults participating in a population-based cohort study (n=1711, aged 65 to 97 y), we investigated the relationships of total and HDL cholesterol levels, statin use, and carotid intima-media thickness with the prevalence of cognitive impairment. In adjusted models, participants in the highest quartile of non-HDL (total−HDL) cholesterol had an increased odds of cognitive impairment compared with those in the lowest quartile [odds ratio (OR): 2.06, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.07-3.98]. Statin use was associated with lower odds of cognitive impairment in unadjusted models (OR: 0.57, 95% CI: 0.36-0.89), but this relationship was not significant after adjusting for vascular and lifestyle factors (OR: 0.84, 95% CI: 0.47-1.49). In this analysis of older adults, increased atherogenic lipoproteins were associated with impaired cognition. Statin use was related to many factors that both negatively and positively affect cognition, but was not associated with better cognitive function. These results suggest that confounding by indication may explain the contradictory findings in studies assessing the association of statins with cognition. Randomized-controlled clinical trials and longitudinal studies are necessary to determine if statins protect against cognitive decline.

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