Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why it’s not the smartest decision to take statins

The good news about statins is that they reduce cholesterol.

The bad news about statins is that they reduce cholesterol.

Most people don’t realize that cholesterol is essential for good brain function. This is why you should know that taking statins could affect your memory — and not in a positive way.

Let me explain.

Your brain needs cholesterol to release neurotransmitters. These are chemicals that send signals from brain cell to brain cell. “Neurotransmitters ... affect how smart you are and how well you remember things,” says Yeon-Kyun Shin, head researcher of a recent cholesterol study at Iowa State University.

In fact, there’s a direct connection between cholesterol and neurotransmitters.

Reduce cholesterol and you risk reducing your memory and data processing functions. This means that low cholesterol could be the unnecessary cause of some of your senior moments. Here’s why.

LDL (“lousy” cholesterol) is cholesterol in your blood that travels from the liver to cells throughout your body. HDL (“healthy” cholesterol) is cholesterol that comes out of these cells. If you have too much cholesterol getting into your cells and not enough coming out, your cells can harden. This leads to cholesterol deposits.

Statins keep your liver from making cholesterol. This means that less of it gets into your cells — including your brain cells. Dr. Shin explains, “If you try to lower the cholesterol by taking medicine that is attacking the machinery of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, that medicine goes to the brain too. And then it reduces the synthesis of cholesterol which is necessary in the brain.”

While less cholesterol in your brain may affect your memory, more cholesterol won’t make you smarter. This is because the cholesterol in your blood can’t get through the blood-brain barrier and into your brain. However, since medications that lower cholesterol (such as statins) can, the solution is to find other ways to protect your heart. Statins are not the answer.

One supplement, policosanol, lowers HDL and raises HDL without any negative side effects.

Another supplement, coenzyme Q10, which statins deplete, could be all you need to take. CoQ10 protects your heart from statin damage. But it also protects your brain. The best absorbed form of CoQ10 is ubiquinol. If you’re taking CoQ10, consider switching to ubiquinol.

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