Research Study Testing Statins to Slow Alzheimer's

Armen Hareyan's picture

With more Americans living into their 80s, 90s and beyond, medicine is looking for new ways to keep people physically and mentally healthy as they grow older.

"For many years, we thought losing your memory was an inevitable consequence of aging, but now we know that's not true," says Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., chief of the division of biological psychiatry in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

Doraiswamy says a growing body of data suggests that a heart-healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other age-related degenerative brain disorders. Now researchers are investigating whether certain medications may provide similar benefits.

Duke is one of approximately 40 sites around the country taking part in the CLASP Study, a national clinical research study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Doraiswamy says CLASP (Cholesterol Lowering Agent to Slow Progression of Alzheimer's Disease) is designed to investigate the safety and effectiveness of drugs commonly used to help lower cholesterol. High cholesterol levels are a common warning sign for heart disease and stroke.


"Although this is not proven, many of the drugs that we thought were traditionally effective only for treating heart disease or diabetes may also be surprisingly useful for either delaying Alzheimer's disease or for improving brain function," explains Doraiswamy, who is principal investigator for the Duke study site.

The drugs to be studied at Duke are statins, popular medications that control cholesterol.

"We are conducting a large research study at Duke, which is part of a national study, to look at whether a certain statin, called simvastatin, may actually be useful for slowing the progress of Alzheimer's disease.

"The traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as being overweight, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high sugar levels, can also be bad for your brain," says Doraiswamy. "A number of drugs also seem to affect the brain changes that may lead to Alzheimer's disease. As with diet and lifestyle, what's good for your heart may also be good for your brain."


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