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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK
Heart drug slashes Alzheimer's risk
Elderly man
Over 700,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer's
Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins could significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to a US study.

Research by doctors at Boston University has found the drugs may cut the risk by as much as 79%, even in people who are believed to be genetically predisposed to the disease.

The findings, presented at the American Academy of Neurology¿s annual meeting, back up previous studies which have suggested similar protective effects of statins.

Statins are prescribed to patients at risk of developing heart disease.

They work by reducing the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream, which in turn keeps blood vessels unclogged.

It is very early days and this will need to be backed up by studies on populations in this country and in Europe

Dr Kevin Morgan, University of Nottingham
This latest study examined the effects of statins on 2,581 people from more than 800 families over six years.

Doctors examined risk factors and the medical history of 912 people with probable or definite Alzheimer's and 1,669 of their family members who did not have the disease.

Among the findings was that statins had a protective effect on African Americans - a group which has a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

The protective effects were not seen with the use of other cholesterol-lowering drugs.


Dr Kevin Morgan for the Alzheimer's Research Trust welcomed the study.

"It certainly looks very promising," he said.

"But it is very early days and this will need to be backed up by studies on populations in this country and in Europe."

He added: "What is promising however is that many different things are starting to fall into place in terms of research into Alzheimer's both from the genetics side of things and where drugs are involved.

"Hopefully these will all spur on further new developments."

See also:

22 Mar 02 | Health
Early test hope for Alzheimer's
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